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Top 25 Under 25: Hunter Jones comes in at No. 20 for second year in a row

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The former 2019 second-round pick is once again the first goalie in our rankings.

Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

After concluding the 2019-20 season with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, Hunter Jones’ status as a prospect had many question marks surrounding it. Despite an unfortunate start, Jones rebounded and finished the season with decent numbers.

This year, Jones was thrust into the Iowa Wild lineup, starting a team most 19 games between the pipes. He also was briefly a member of the Minnesota Wild’s taxi squad during a period where Cam Talbot was banged up.

Similar to his junior years, Jones’ AHL career got off to a rough start. His first game saw a 3-2 lead after the second period quickly turn into a 6-3 deficit, ending with Jones allowing 7 goals. The following games, and frankly the entire season, were likely not exactly how one would hope.

However, Jones is only 20 years old, playing a position where people his age rarely get a shot in the American Hockey League. Considering that, fans should be hesitant to overreact about this season. He is widely considered a raw prospect, so time should help paint a clearer picture of what his potential can be. While Jones had his lows this season, he also had great stretches that were noticed league-wide.

The Stats

After a terrible statistical 2017-2018 year left him undrafted, the Wild used a 2019 second-round pick on the overaged goaltender after a resurgent year. While his final year in the OHL was not perfect, Jones made demonstrable improvement. Part of this growth could be attributed to the improvement of his team, but Jones’ rising talent likely played a large part in that.

As mentioned earlier, this season got off to a very poor start. As Jones’ play began to improve, his numbers raised from poor to subpar. Wild fans are surely hoping to see his AHL growth mirror his OHL growth in the coming years.

Roll the Tape

Since he only played 19 AHL games this season, there isn’t a lot of great Jones content from this year. That being said, a lot of these clips will be from his international and OHL games.

It’s pretty clear clear what scouts love about Jones: his size. He knows how to use his body to make the openings of the net seem microscopic. If he can improve his athleticism, this combination could make Wild fans happy for years to come.

Here, Jones denies two current NHLers and displays some great athleticism.

And... again.

The Future

One of the few things that scouts agree on about Jones is that he won’t be breaking into the NHL in the next couple of years. Next year, he will almost return to Iowa where he will share starts with Derek Baribeau and possibly Trevin Kozlowski. Unfortunately for Jones, the Wild used their first first-round pick in this year’s draft to select Jesper Wallstedt. This, along with Kaapo Kähkönen not being selected by the Seattle Kraken, has created a very deep goalie prospect pool that he must compete against if he ever wants to play consistently, much less be a starter, in the NHL. However, Kähkönen is coming up on a contract year. Depending on his performance, the salary he demands, Jones’ performance next year, he could see his role in the organization increase in the coming years. If Jones can improve his puck playing, recovery times, and his blocker side, I see him becoming a dependable backup goalie in the NHL. With his frame and athleticism, as well as his great character, I wouldn’t be surprised if a future tandem of himself and Jesper Wallstedt become a Minnesota fan favorite.

Hockey Wilderness 2021 Top 25 Under 25

25) Simon Johansson, D

24) Caedan Bankier, C

23) Kyle Masters, D

22) Damien Giroux, C

21) Ivan Lodnia, RW

20) Hunter Jones, G