LOS ANGELES — It was not so long ago that goaltender Martin Jones of the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen was passed over in the 2008 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
Talk about discouraging.
But scouts for the Los Angeles Kings were impressed by his play—18-8-1 record, 2.12 goals-against average (GAA), .911 save percentage, and one shutout—in the 2007-08 season. That earned him an invitation to the Kings Development Camp in July 2008, where he made an even bigger impression, so much so that they signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract on October 2, 2008.
Jones went on to shine in goal for the Hitmen for two more seasons before making the jump to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League (Kings’ primary minor league affiliate), splitting time with netminder Jeff Zatkoff, also a Kings prospect at the time, in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
“[Jones has] had a good start to his pro career down in Manchester,” said Kim Dillabaugh, who handles goaltender development for the Kings. “Two solid seasons, and he’s taking steps forward in his development.”
“He’s got a great attitude,” Monarchs head coach Mark Morris told Frozen Royalty during an exclusive interview. “He’s one of those guys that when he’s positionally sound, he just sucks pucks in.”
“He’s had a few games where he wasn’t quite himself, but that’s to be expected [from a player so young],” Morris added. “He’s got to work on that mental toughness factor, and he’s working on getting out and playing the puck with more confidence. Every year, he’s improved in that area. That’s a big factor if you’re going to make it at that next level, to get out, and make good decisions with the puck, relieving pressure from your defensemen.”
Although Jones is having to deal with the ups and downs that most young prospects do, the Kings like his poise and mental make-up.
“He’s a very poised individual, [who’s always on] a very even keel,” said Dillabaugh. “He doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low.”
“He manages himself very well through ups and downs, which every player at every position goes through at some point,” added Dillabaugh. “That’s a trait that he’s had from a very young age, and he’s been able to translate that to the pro game.”
When Jones first joined the Kings organization, the knock on him was his strength, or lack thereof. But he has improved in that area as well, pushing his weight up to 194 pounds after summer workouts—he was listed at 189 last season.
“[This past summer, I worked on my] fitness, and on getting bigger and stronger,” Jones said during an exclusive interview with Frozen Royalty.
“I think he has [gotten stronger],” Morris noted. “You rarely see him getting pushed around the crease area.”
As reported earlier, Jones split time in goal with Zatkoff the last two seasons. But this season, the Kings have moved Jones into the spotlight with the Monarchs, as Zatkoff was not signed to a new contract, and has since signed with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the primary minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“With Jeff moving on, there’s an opportunity for [Jones] to take on more responsibility, and maybe a bigger workload,” Dillabaugh indicated. “I think that really is the next step for him, to see how he manages something like that.”
So far, so good.
Indeed, Jones has played in eleven of the Monarchs’ first twelve games, earning a 6-4-1 record, with a 2.03 GAA, a .926 save percentage, and three shutouts, through games played on November 14.
“[Jeff Zatkoff] and I had a good relationship,” Jones said of his former roommate. “We definitely learned a lot from each other. Working with someone, day in and day out, for two years, you rub off on each other.”
“The main thing for me, this year, is the chance to play a lot of games, and really getting comfortable with the professional game,” Jones added. “It was understood, on my end, that I wanted to be the guy, and play a lot of games this year. I saw my opportunity, and I definitely want to take full advantage of it.”
“It’s going to be exciting. I like that responsibility, I like that challenge. It’s going to be fun to have a bigger role on the team this year, for sure.”
With Kings backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier reportedly having asked to be traded, Jones could, conceivably, find himself on a faster-than-expected track to the NHL. But he is not thinking about that possibility at all.
“Each day, I’m working to be ready [to play at the NHL level],” he stressed. “The only thing I can do is worry about my game, and try [to] get better each day.”
“Whatever happens in L.A. happens,” he added. “All I can do is worry about being here in Manchester, and winning hockey games.”
Jones was one of a few prospects who had been playing with the Monarchs to stay with the Kings as they advanced to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final—most of their prospects who were called up to join the Kings during the playoffs left the team after the Western Conference Finals. In fact, Jones got to skate onto the ice with the Kings to share in the celebration when they won the Stanley Cup on June 11, 2012.
Although Jones has those memories firmly in mind, having been a part of that, being part of an organization that just won the Cup has not changed anything for him.
“I’m still working my hardest every day down here,” he emphasized. “I don’t think it changes my attitude at all. I still want to get to the next level, and be a part of that team, whether they won the Stanley Cup [last season] or not.”
“It’s a great honor to have that, but it doesn’t change my motivation at all.”
Raw Audio Interview with Martin Jones
(7:05; Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
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- Is LA Kings Blue Line Prospect Thomas Hickey Sliding Down The Depth Chart?
- LA Kings Defenseman Prospect David Kolomatis Is Moving Up The Depth Chart…Quietly
- Could LA Kings 2012 First Round Pick Tanner Pearson Be Better Than Advertised?
- LA Kings’ Jordan Nolan Honors Family, Community Back Home In Garden River With Stanley Cup
- LA Kings Blue Liner Prospect Jake Muzzin Is Waiting Patiently For His Chance
- Manchester Monarchs RW Tyler Toffoli Is Showing Why He&rsquos The LA Kings’ Top Forward Prospect
- LA Kings LW Prospect Andy Andreoff Is Catching Up To Pace Of The Game In The AHL
- LA Kings Prospect Jean-Francois Berube Is Struggling To Earn #1 Goalie Spot With ECHL’s Ontario Reign
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Nice pickup from Pittsburgh. Again, the future is promising. Thanks for this, Gann!
From PIttsburgh? Ummm…you might want to re-read the story. :-)