Caleb Jones is quietly having himself a real solid rookie campaign and it’s time the Edmonton Oilers consider giving him some more ice time.
And I think his goal Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lighting — the Oilers lone goal of the game — is a great example why.
First, here’s the clip for those who haven’t seen it.
Caleb Jones ties the game up at 1 after: breaking up a play in the defensive zone, getting into great position to carry the puck out of the defensive zone, sticking with it through the neutral zone, and corralling his own rebound to score. #Oilers –@zjlaing pic.twitter.com/JgGDYNDa1j
— Oilersnation (@OilersnationHQ) February 14, 2020
Brayden Point rushes the puck into the offensive zone along the right boards and Jones pinches across breaking up the play knocking the puck into the corner. His partner, Matt Benning, is able to get down low and recover the puck.
Jones, meanwhile, gets himself into great positioning by positioning himself between the net and the scrum on the wall behind the net. As the puck squirts loose behind the net, he’s able to quickly grab a pass from Leon Draisaitl and turn up ice with speed.
He tries a quick pass in the neutral zone to Kailer Yamamoto that doesn’t work and grabs his own rebound and this time finds a streaking Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Jones jumps into the offensive zone, gets a pass back from Nugent-Hopkins, fires a quick shot, grabs hit own rebound and fires a shot home past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
It was the perfect encapsulation of what you want from a defenceman in 2020. Someone who has the smarts in his own end to knock a puck loose on a rush then be in a position to break the puck out of the defensive zone.
Jones has played in a respectable 30 games for the Oilers this year and has scored three goals and three assists. His isolated impact charts show a player who struggles in the offensive zone, and is solid in his own zone.
His underlying numbers are even-strength aren’t great, but he’s also got a PDO of 97.9 suggesting he’s had poor luck. Playing about 14 minutes a night, I think it’s time for the Oilers to start to play him some more.
It’s part of the reason I see the Oilers being able to comfortably trade Kris Russell sooner, rather than later. All rookie players are expected to take their lumps in an NHL season and that’s a good thing — you have to learn at some point.
As the season moves on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him getting more ice-time and more trust from the coaching staff. I really think the Oilers have a player that could be a solid top-four defenceman in the NHL and judging by two-year, $850k contract he signed, the Oilers seem to like him too.
On Twitter: @zjlaing