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Jones is back on track in Plymouth

In his third OHL season, Detroit area native is excited for outdoor game at Comerica

Saturday, 12.28.2013 / 12:00 AM ET / News
By Andrea Nelson  - Editorial Assistant | DetroitRedWings.com
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Jones is back on track in Plymouth
Now recovered from a knee injury that slowed his growth last year, Mitch Jones is gaining confidence as he gains ice time with the Whalers this season. (Photo Credit: Rena Laverty)

The third time’s the charm for Mitch Jones.

After recording just six assists in his first two seasons with the Plymouth Whalers, the defenseman has hit a stride in his third year, scoring three goals and adding eight assists through 29 games in 2013-14.

“The main difference is I’m on track to playing a lot more games this season,” Jones said. “I had a knee injury that took me out for two months last season and I’m getting way more ice time and way more chances and power-play time so I’m really getting myself out there in a way to get points up for myself.”

The Rochester, Michigan native was selected by Plymouth in the 11th round of the 2011 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection. Coach Mike Vellucci was impressed by Jones’ offensive and defensive skills as well as his aggressiveness, and signed the defenseman in December 2011.

“Mitch is an all-around player,” Vellucci said. “He’s got offensive ability, he has a really good shot, he plays on one of our power-play units and the other thing is he’s a tough kid. He plays the game physical and is pretty responsible defensively.

“One of the things is that he’s getting better every day, that’s what we talk about trying to get better every day and he’s improved his skating, he’s gotten stronger and he’s just developed at a pretty good pace.”

The jump from Metro Detroit’s AAA teams to the OHL may not have been an easy one, but in his third year with the Whalers, the 18-year-old only continues to improve competing with and against some of the top NHL prospects in the league.

“It’s a big difference jumping up from midgets to playing against 16- through 21-year-olds who have gotten drafted in the NHL, first round NHL draft picks,” Jones said. “Playing against those players makes you better so just learning the game too, the defensive zone, man-on-man, one-on-one, you can develop from everything. I’ve been developing slowly but surely and it’s been going well.”

And it will continue to do so as Jones prepares for the matchup against the London Knights at the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival. The defenseman feels fortunate to have the opportunity to play in such a unique outdoor atmosphere and is looking forward to seeing a view of Comerica Park from the field rather than the stands.

“I remember growing up and playing pond hockey so it’s quite different playing inside of the baseball field,” Jones said. “I’ve never been on the field at Comerica Park but I’ve been there plenty of times for games so there’s a lot to learn. But there’s a lot to see and it’s also going to be an experience and a memory so you have to make it good. I’m excited to see what it’s like and what it’s about instead of watching NHL games on TV and playing in the Winter Classic, and I actually get to experience it so I’m excited.”

Vellucci is looking forward to the event just as much as Jones and the other members of his team are, and it even carries an extra meaning for the coach, a Detroit native, to see his city celebrate the game of hockey in such a grand manner.

“We feel very fortunate to be playing in the first OHL outdoor game and to be a part of something that’s really cool in downtown Detroit,” Vellucci said. “I’m from Detroit so it’s great to see the city support all kinds of hockey from youth hockey to the alumni game to the OHL, college, you name it, it’s going to be exciting to be part of.”

Jones plans on seeing a number of friends and family in the stands for the OHL matchup, even as the temperature continues to plummet with Dec. 29 drawing ever so closer.

“They’re hoping it’s not too cold,” Jones said with a laugh. “But aren’t we all.”

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
R. Sheahan 81 14 11 -8 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80