April 22, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Zack Jones #6 of the New York Rangers takes the puck in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory credit: Elsa/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports
Zack Jones Currently in New York training with a small group of players in preparation for Rangers training camp in the coming weeks.
“Zach was delighted with his first two professional stints with the organization,” his agent, Sean Honowick, told Forever Blueshirts. “Zach is already back in New York pre-season with a small group of players.”
Jones, 21, has been patiently waiting for his time to be a regular player in the New York Rangers defense. This is now his best chance, and it comes as he enters the final year of his entry-level deal. The Rangers, who will be facing a salary cap, could easily fit in his $925,000 salary.
Zach Jones is not looking to go anywhere
Rangers have a huge hole in the left defense having replaced Patrick Nemeth last summer.
In the camp, Jones will likely battle Matthew Robertson for the final starting point to play on the left side with Braden Schneider. Both will have less competition with the news that prospective Blue Line student Nils Lundqvist has pitched a deal.
While speaking with Jones’ agent, I asked if his client also felt the need to try to find a better opportunity elsewhere.
“We’ve never asked for a trade with the New York Rangers,” Hoenwick stated. He also added that Jones is excited to play with this group of players.
Coach Gerard Gallant also had some positive things to see during Jones’ brief stint in New York last season.
“We know what Jonesy is,” Galant said. “He drives the disc really well. We love what he brings and I love the way he carries himself on the ice. He’s not a big guy but he defends really hard.”
Jones has a great sense of hockey
Jones has already shown flashes he can play in the NHL due to his high hockey IQ. His ability to read plays more quickly than makes up for his size at 5-11, a 185-pound frame.
Jones was drafted by Rangers in the third round (68 total) of the 2019 NHL Draft. He made his debut at the end of the 2020-21 season and has 4 assists in 10 games.
In his first full season as a professional with the Hartford Wolfpack, he was the best defensive player in scoring with 35 points in 52 games.
“Jones can form an attack with his pass and his ability to move on the blue line by hitting one man for one,” Wolfback coach Chris Knoblech said.
Last season, Jones played 12 games and scored 2 assists. He had 4 assists in 10 competitions in 2020-21 giving him a total of 6 assists in 22 games.
Jones and Schneider coupling
Rangers called up Braden Schneider this past January, wanting to get a sneak peek at their 2020 first-round pick. Instead, they got plenty. He was famous for being a physical defense who could pass a good pass, and he scored a goal in his first match. Playing like a seasoned veteran made it extremely difficult to take him out of the squad from that moment on.
Having played every game in the previous playoff round and had three assists, Schneider became the third player on the right-hand side for the next year. He should also get more chances to kill penalties but who will be his partner?
The Jones-Schneider pairing is the way Rangers should go next season. They need to know what they have in Jones before they consider trading it.
New York Robertson is still on his ELC until 2023-24, which will save them time. Libor Hajek was also signed for another year as insurance. Rangers also have veteran defender Jared Tenordi signed for another season for $900,000. They are all insurance options in case Jones can’t cut it.
“I think 100% I’m a better player than I was at the end of training camp,” Jones said. “I will keep getting better.”