Daily News Sports Editor
Seth Jones is taking the WHL to places it has never been.
Like, for example, the renowned Page Six of the New York Post.
NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings prior to the NHL’s 2013 draft on Wednesday and, as expected, Jones, a freshman defenceman with the Portland Winterhawks, tops the list.
But the unveiling was almost overshadowed by an item from The Post that links Jones with rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z.
Prior to Game 4 of the Western Conference final with the Kamloops Blazers at Interior Savings Centre, Jones was asked if his teammates had been giving him the gears about this latest exposure. He laughed and said: “Yeah, a little bit. But it’s a surprise for me as well.”
Recently, Jay-Z started up a sports agency called Roc Nation Sports, which is in partnership with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the most prominent agencies in the business.
According to Kirsten Fleming of The Post, Jay-Z would like Roc Nation to be “involved in the star’s marketing and branding.”
What this means is that, should a deal come to fruition, once Jones becomes property of an NHL team — the NHL draft is set for June 30 in Newark, N.J. — Pat Brisson of CAA would negotiate his playing contract, with Roc Nation handling the marketing side of things.
“When Seth comes to the NHL draft in June, his family, agents at CAA and Roc Nation are going to have a powwow to see if he’ll sign with them,” a source told Fleming.
Jones was adamant that, at least from his perspective, this all is just speculation.
“I’m not signing . . . I’m not committed to anything,” he stated. “My agent is Pat Brisson of CAA. I believe (CAA and Roc Nation) have some kind of joint partnership . . . but it’s in his and my best interests to open up new things.”
Jones is the son of Popeye Jones, a former NBA player who now is an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets. (Seth Jones’ mother Amy — she and Popeye are divorced — is white.) Prior to starting Roc Nation, Jay-Z was a minority shareholder in the Nets.
Should Seth Jones be the first player selected in Newark, he would become the first African-American to go No. 1. Tie that in with his father’s NBA connections, throw in Jay-Z and the marketing possibilities seem almost endless.
When it’s suggested that his father is likely getting a chuckle out of seeing his son on Page Six, Jones agreed.
“It’s probably pretty funny to him,” he said, laughing again. “I’ll probably get a text from him soon.”
Coming in atop Central Scouting’s final rankings is yet another laurel in what has been quite a season for Jones, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound native of Plano, Texas, who is to 19 on Oct. 3. He is a WHL Western Conference all-star and the conference’s nominee as rookie of the year. It’s all nice, of course, but, at least for now, he shrugs it off.
“I try to focus on hockey,” he said. “Stuff like that . . . it’s been an up-and-down season. I just try to focus on the now and let the future take care of itself.”
What all of this has done, however, is validate his decision to take the WHL route.
“I knew coming in it was a pretty physical league . . . a lot of big and fast and strong players,” he said. “It’s definitely what I wanted it to be.
“That’s what you need to get ready for the next level and I thought this would be my best opportunity at that.”
There is a chance, too, that the WHL hasn’t seen the last of the Jones family. Seth’s younger brother, Caleb, is an up-and-comer whose rights belong to the Winterhawks. They selected Caleb, who also is a defenceman, in the third round of the WHL’s 2012 bantam draft. He is ticketed for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Seth played before joining the Winterhawks.
“He’s going to be pretty good,” Seth said. “He made the U.S. program . . . it’ll be cool for him to share some of the same experiences that I did. He got drafted by Portland, also, so he might end up here.”
The Winterhawks are working in that direction — Caleb and his mother were in Portland for Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference final on the weekend.
“He’s probably 6-foot . . . 6-foot-1 and around 180 pounds,” Seth said of Caleb, who is to turn 16 in June. “He should be taller than me and he will probably weigh a lot more.”
Maybe the day will come when Jay-Z is interested in marketing another member of the Jones family.
“Yeah,” Seth said, chuckling and shaking his head as he returned to the Winterhawks’ locker-room.
Two other Portland forwards are in the NHL Central Scouting rankings — F Nic Petan moved up from No. 34 to 33, while F Oliver Bjorkstrand slipped from 29 to 36 — while G Brendan Burke stayed at No. 13 among North American goaltenders.
The Blazers have three players ranked. F JC Lipon jumped from 96 to 83 and F Cole Ully moved from 97 to 92. G Taran Kozun, who wasn’t ranked in the mid-terms, is at No. 30 among North American goaltenders. Cole Cheveldave, the Blazers’ sophomore starting goaltender, isn’t ranked.
Lipon, who turns 20 on July 10, went through the 2011 and 2012 drafts without being selected. He later signed a free-agent tryout deal with the Colorado Avalanche but didn’t get to go to camp because of the NHL lockout.
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