Nashville Predators’ Defenseman Seth Jones and His Quiet Improvement

The Predators have been off to their hottest start in franchise history. This is largely due to the phenomenal play of Filip Forsberg and the rest of the top line, as well as the return of a Vezina-form Pekka Rinne. The defensive corps has been solid as well, with captain Shea Weber leading the way. However, there is one player that has been quietly playing the best hockey of his young career: Seth Jones.

The former fourth overall pick is only in his second season in the league, but he is starting to blossom into the top defenseman he should be. Last season, he was overworked in the early going, so his numbers took a major dip. When he started seeing less ice time, his numbers got better, but they still were not phenomenal. While he was on the ice, the team’s Goals for percentage in close gameplay (zone start adjusted, ignoring the first ten seconds of gameplay after a faceoff) was 42.4%. The team was giving up too many goals while he was on the ice.

Last season, Jones was not so great. This season, the numbers tell a different story. Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

His PDO numbers were equally atrocious. PDO is simply shot percentage plus save percentage while a player is on the ice. This number tends to hover around the 100 mark. Last season, Jones’ PDO (ZS adjusted) was 96.0. Granted, he wasn’t playing in front of Pekka Rinne for most of the season, but by comparison, Shea Weber’s PDO was 100.2. Simply put, Seth Jones was not a good defender last season.

This year, the narrative is very different. Jones’ defensive numbers make a drastic jump. While he is on the ice, the Predators’ Goals for percentage in 5 on 5 close gameplay (ZS adjusted) is 61.5%. That isn’t great, but it is much better than last year. Some of the increase may have to do with the new high-octane system implemented by head coach Peter Laviolette, but for whatever reason, Jones is making the Predators better when he is on the ice.

His PDO numbers are also much improved, sitting at 101.1. That is right where any player should want their PDO to be. By comparison, Shea Weber’s PDO is 103.8 so far, and Anton Volchenkov registers at exactly 1oo.o. When Jones is on the ice, the Predators are playing solid hockey. They are shooting the puck well, and they are stopping the puck well.

Seth Jones scoring the game-winner in Ottawa last season. Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

On the offensive side, Jones has yet to find the back of the net, but has notched five assists so far. However, when he is on the ice in close 5 on 5 play (ZS adjusted), the team’s Fenwick for percentage is 57.1%, which the Predators are possessing, and shooting, the puck more than their opponents. Meanwhile,Weber and Roman Josi both have FF% lower than 50%.

Jones is not a top-line defenseman yet. He has a few more years of development to go. At the same time, he is looking much better than he did last season. He is not getting burned as much as he did last season. He looks stronger on the blue line, and in the offensive zone. With all the buzz over the Predators offense, Jones’ improvement has been overlooked. But, as the numbers show, Jones is making significant strides towards becoming a top-level defenseman.

Stats courtesy of Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, and are updated as of 11/25/14.