What a day. My first full day ever in Portland couldn’t have been much better. I got to see much of the city, got to experience some of its finer places, including a doughnut place everybody told me to go to called Voodoo Doughnuts. The maple bacon doughnut was as good as advertised.
Best of all, I got to see tonight’s Portland Winterhawks-Edmonton Oil Kings game at the Rose Garden, Game 1 of the Western Hockey League finals. I got to see Seth Jones play in person for the first time too.

And, uh, yeah the Avs MUST take him. Although Jones’ Winterhawks lost 4-1, I saw why scouts have drooled over the kid.

The thing I most noticed: his skating. He’s very smooth. He skates effortlessly. He has a great backward stride too, kind of like a figure skater’s footwork moving side to side and backward.

Next thing I noticed: his first pass out of the zone. Very sure, very calm, no panic, no blind dumps up the glass.

Next thing: his decision-making in the offensive zone, especially on the power play. He puts the puck on net. He has a big slap shot, but knows how to thread a wrist shot though in traffic. He moves continually with the puck, dancing on the blue line with the puck looking for a better angle. He didn’t just stand there and shoot and get the shot blocked like so many other D-men do.

He’s very comfortable with the puck on his stick, and he seems to have that natural instinct of where a play is going and gets there first. He works the angles well, cutting guys off before they get going, using his long reach to his advantage in poke-checking pucks away.

Keep in mind: this probably wasn’t a great game for him. He and the team hadn’t played for a while and at times the rust showed. He made a bad pass in the offensive zone that led to a breakout for the Oil Kings. But he also got back and broke the play up right away.

Jones has taken the occasional knock from critics that he isn’t physical or mean enough for a guy his size. I can understand some of that maybe, as there were times when he seemed a little – mmm, I’m not saying “passive” necessarily, but maybe not as rabidly aggressive as you might expect or want. He doesn’t seem to look for the big, huge, rocking hits on guys. He seems more content with just breaking plays up with his stick and body position and not the force of the body itself.
And yet, that is reallllly nitpicking here. And there were times when he did some pushing and shoving on guys. There were a couple times when he just rubbed guys out in the corners and took the puck away. He didn’t take any grief out there from other guys. But he wasn’t out there slamming guys with timed open-ice hits or hacking and whacking at everything in sight.