Among all the coaches who have helped Seth Jones develop into hockey's most attractive NHL draft prospect and likely Avalanche franchise defenseman, Kent Murphy might be most proud.
Murphy coached Jones in his final three years in Colorado, for the Littleton Hawks (two seasons) and Colorado Thunderbirds (one) from ages 10 to 13. Murphy said Jones was incredibly gifted at age 10, when he made his peewee double-A team as a second-year squirt. The team, mostly comprised of 12- and 13-year-olds, went on to win the national championship in 2005, with Jones serving as a top-four defenseman.
The captain of that team was Nick Shore, who played for the University of Denver the past three seasons and recently signed with the Los Angeles Kings. Another kid "playing up" on that team with Jones was current DU freshman Quentin Shore, Nick's brother, although Quentin was limited to a third-line forward.
Jones — now 18 and the surefire No. 1 pick in the June 30 NHL draft, in which the Avs possess — played another season for Murphy's double-A Littleton team as a first-year peewee before the Thunderbirds introduced a peewee team and Murphy as its coach. Jones served as captain of that team, which was ranked No. 1 most of the season and lost in USA Hockey's national championship game. Jones moved back to Texas, where he was born, at age 13 when his father, Popeye Jones, became an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks.
Murphy said Jones was always the most intelligent kid on the ice, seeing the game and reacting like an adult. While he is surprised Jones is now the most attractive undrafted 19-under player in the world, Murphy said he knew Jones would have a chance to play professionally.