EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips courted Seth Jones for three years, trying to convince the superstar defensive prospect to ply his trade in Everett.
But as soon as the primary individual doing the courting was gone, Everett’s chances with Jones evaporated.
Jones, whose Portland Winterhawks play host to Everett tonight for the teams’ second meeting in four days, said the reason he decided not to sign with the Silvertips was because of the dismissal of former Everett general manager Doug Soetaert, the man who drafted Jones and built a relationship with he and his family.
“I had a really good connection with Doug Soetaert and the head coach that was here (Craig Hartburg),” the 18-year-old Jones explained following Saturday night’s game in Everett, his first visit to Comcast Arena as a member of the Winterhawks. “They both are gone, so I didn’t feel like I had a connection with the new guys here.”
Soetaert selected Jones with the 11th-overall pick in the 2009 bantam draft. Jones, the son of former NBA basketball player Popeye Jones, was considered perhaps the top talent in the draft. However, he slipped because of questions whether he would choose to play in the WHL or the NCAA. Everett, which had two first-round picks that year, decided to take a chance.
The Tips put the full-court press on Jones and his family, but were unable to get a commitment. Jones was scheduled to attend training camp in 2009, but backed out at the last minute. Jones then decided to play his 16- and 17-year-old seasons for the U.S. National Team Development Program. Nevertheless, Soetaert remained confident throughout that Jones would come to Everett once his time with the NTDP was complete.
Suggestions are Jones was on the verge of signing with the Tips when Soetaert was dismissed in February. But ultimately Jones didn’t sign, and in April his representatives announced Jones wouldn’t play for Everett. Garry Davidson, Soetaert’s successor, was compelled to trade Jones’ rights to Portland. Jones quickly signed with the Winterhawks.
“I have nothing against Everett,” Jones said. “Doug was a great guy. He came down to Dallas to visit me a couple times the past couple years. When he got fired I was devastated, to be honest with you. He was a really nice guy and a great influence for me to come here. He left and things kind of changed.
“Portland came along and wanted to sit down and talk with me,” Jones added. “I went out there and visited a bit, saw the facilities and talked to Mike (Johnston, Portland’s general manager and head coach) and Travis (Green, Portland’s assistant general manager and assistant coach) quite a bit. The style of play Portland plays really fits my game, so I thought this would be the best decision for me.”
Since joining Portland, Jones has solidified his position as one of the top two prospects for the 2013 NHL draft. He’s considered in the running to be taken first overall, along with Nathan MacKinnon, a forward who plays for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“It’s gone great,” Jones said of his time with Portland. “I’m really comfortable with the way I’m playing right now. The team has made me feel like I’ve been here a couple years, and this is just my first year. So it’s been awesome.”
Tips call up Zipp
The Tips have added 16-year-old defenseman Micheal Zipp to the roster. He will stay with the team for the remainder of the season. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound native of Edmonton, Alberta, had been playing for the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, where he was pointless in nine games.
Zipp, Everett’s fourth-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft, was one of the final cuts during preseason. However, with Ryan Murray suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, Griffin Foulk traded to Seattle, and Landon Oslanski looking comfortable at forward, room opened up on Everett’s roster for another defenseman.
Zipp is not expected to be in the lineup tonight in Portland. Nick Walters, who missed Saturday’s game because of damage taken during a fight Friday against Vancouver, remains day to day. Walters’ absence would open up a lineup spot for Zipp. However, Oslanski is expected to spend a second game back on defense to allow Zipp time to get acclimated before being thrust into the lineup.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.