Caleb Jones’ pre-playoffs training camp didn’t get off to the smoothest start after he was deemed “unfit to play.” Jones says he had tested positive for COVID-19 during a media call Friday. The young defenceman said when he arrived in Edmonton a few weeks ago, he tested positive for the virus but was asymptomatic. Jones says he has since recovered from the virus and is “glad to be healthy and feeling good back on the ice.”
Head coach Dave Tippett said after Tuesday’s practice that Jones was “progressing and hopefully not in the too distant future he can come and be a part of the main group. Won’t be tomorrow, it won’t be the next couple days, but we’ll see where we are in the next couple days.”Our very own (and also TSN’s) Jason Gregor tweeted on July 15 that Jones was practising alone with assistant coach Jim Playfair.
Post practice and scrimmage has the three young goalies out: Rodrigue, Skinner, Wells while McLeod, Benson, Marody, Broberg and Bouchard stick around to shoot on them. Caleb Jones is at other end of the ice skating on his own and working with D coach Jim Playfair. #Oilers
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) July 15, 2020
In his second season with the Oilers, Jones, 23, played 43 games, scoring 9 points during that time. He spent most of his time playing alongside Matt Benning. Edmonton saw enough to sign the 2015 draft pick to a two-year, $1.7 million deal in January. He was averaging just over 14 minutes per game and is now set to push for a more consistent role next season.
But the focus right now is on the play-in round.
The Oilers stocked up on defenders for their training camp. Even with veteran Mike Green opting-out of play, and Phillip Broberg returning to Sweden after the training camp ends, Jones will have to compete for playing time. Jones, Matt Benning, Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson and Kris Russell will all be fighting for the two spots on the third pairing.
Right now, it’s unsure exactly when Jones will join the main group. Is it possible that missing time with the main group hurts Jones chances at playing in the play-in round?
To quickly answer my own question, I doubt that missing this time during training camp will hurt Jones’ chances of securing more playing time.
I wouldn’t be surprised in Edmonton played around with their third pairing against Chicago. With their top-four solidified in Ethan Bear, Adam Larsson, Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse, Jones will have to take advantage of whatever ice time he’s given to show that he’s the best depth option for the Oilers.
Against the Blackhawks, I doubt that the Oilers would put Jones on the ice consistently against Chicago’s top lines. Where Jones can earn his spot is by playing safe, reliable hockey and clearing the puck from his end. He’ll most likely continue playing with Matt Benning.
In the playoffs
You can’t spell playoffs without injuries. Especially for these playoffs taking place in the middle of a global pandemic, the value of depth will be at an all-time high. As we’ve seen in other leagues across North America, getting COVID-19 is a serious, and real, possibility. Whether injury or illness, any knock to the Oilers d-core will force Jones to step up and provide steady play on the back end.
If the Oilers are going to advance deep into the playoffs, they’ll need Jones to provide that depth defending that all Stanley Cup winning teams need.
This story has been updated to include the news that Caleb Jones had tested positive for COVID-19