Seth Jones: Does Top 2013 Draft Prospect Represent a Cultural Shift in NHL?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2013

Seth Jones has the ability to change the face of professional hockey.

Jones is the top prospect in this year's NHL draft, according to He is currently a defenseman with size, skating ability and a hard, accurate shot.

The 6'4", 208-pound Jones is also an African-American.

Jones is the son of former NBA player Ronald "Popeye" Jones, who played with several teams, including the Denver Nuggets. During that time, the elder Jones saw that his son was taken with hockey and sought out Colorado Avalanche star Joe Sakic to give him some advice that he could pass along to his son.

Little did Sakic know that the younger Jones would heed his advice so well that he would become the top NHL prospect in the 2013 draft.

Jones is the first bona fide African-American prospect who is on the road to becoming a dominant NHL player. The other top black players in the league—Jarome Iginla, Wayne Simmonds and Evander Kane—were all born in Canada.

Kane was the fourth pick in the 2009 draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, and that's the highest any player of color has ever been selected.

Jones figures to shatter that mark when he goes with the first pick.

Coincidentally, the Colorado Avalanche won the draft lottery and have the top selection. It seems likely that the team Jones grew up watching will select him to play for them.

So the Avs are unofficially on the clock. You'll have to pick me up off the floor if they don't pick Seth Jones.

— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) April 30, 2013

His overall talent will almost certainly give him a chance to contribute right away. He should be an NHL player right from the start, although defensemen often take a bit longer to develop their game at the NHL level.

Dougie Hamilton of the Boston Bruins and Jonas Brodin of the Minnesota Wild are considered two of the best rookie defensemen in the league this year. Both appear to be on the path to stardom, but neither one reached his potential this season.

Jones looks like a better prospect than either of those players.

He may have a chance to make a huge cultural impact on the sport even before he reaches his peak as a hockey player.

Jones is considering an association with Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports division, according to the New York Post.

Pat Brisson of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) would handle Jones' NHL contract negotiations, but if the player and Jay-Z decide to work together, the high-profile agent would help him get endorsement deals and other commercial opportunities (source: The Hockey News).

If that happens, it could mark a watershed moment between the sport of hockey and the African-American community.

Both sides have largely ignored each other for many years.

Jones' position as the likely No. 1 selection in the NHL draft could open doors to the African-American population that have been closed in the past.

In addition to serving as a role model for other African-Americans who want to become hockey players, Jones could attract more fans to the sport from the black community.

At this point, Jones is thinking about becoming a better hockey player. U.S. junior team head coach Phil Housley called him "the complete package," and Travis Green, his coach with the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks, described Jones as a defenseman who could play 30 minutes a game, run the power play and serve as a penalty killer (per The Denver Post).

Jones must prove himself on the ice against the best players in the world. If he has any kind of long-term success, he could become one of the most important hockey players the game has ever seen.