Ryan Ellis has developed into a top prospect in Windsor this season. (Getty Images)
Historically, the Ontario League has been a breeding ground for not only players, but coaches and executives as well. In my opinion, there is another coach currently plying his trade in the OHL who has a very bright future. The difference between this guy and most others – many of whom moved on to the NHL – is he is an assistant coach without any previous OHL head coaching experience.
Still, despite his lack of experience in that department, I can make the case Bobby Jones of the Windsor Spitfires is one of the most valuable coaches in the history of the league. But because Jones has always been in charge of the blueline corps on his team, only the rearguards have had the luxury of being taught by one of the best.
Jones started his coaching career as an assistant for the Greyhounds in his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie in 1995 and has since played a key role in the development of dozens of future pro defensemen. He has helped produce 36 prospects who have moved on to professional hockey; among those, 10 have graduated to the NHL, including Marc Staal, Rostislav Klesla and Kevin Klein. On top of that, he has a number of former protégés knocking on the door from the American League including Adam McQuaid, Jonathan D’Aversa and Ryan Wilson.
As you examine Jones’ coaching record, something you can’t ignore is the fact he has also taken guys who were low draft picks – like Vancouver’s Shane O’Brien – and turned them into NHL defenders.
Jones’ current gig in Windsor has allowed him to take his knowledge and pass it on to an impressive bunch of young defenders for one of the OHL’s top teams. The work he has done with Mark Cundari, Harry Young, Ben Shutron and Rob Kwiet has resulted in all four having a good chance at making the pro ranks in the future. Along with those four, Jones has been handed the task of moulding top NHL prospects Ryan Ellis and Jesse Blacker, both of whom can sleep easy knowing their development is in capable and proven hands.
Jones’ coaching success has not gone unnoticed by those in Windsor, either, including team co-owner and head coach Bob Boughner.
“The guys really respect and like Bob because they know he played the position, keeps it fun and he has the history of success behind him,” Boughner said. “He does such a great job of preparing them and making small adjustments that it makes a huge difference and he is one of the biggest reasons for our overall team improvement in the past couple years.”
If you are wondering whether his coaching ability tops out at being an exceptional assistant, it should also be noted that Jones has had success when charged with the task of being the head guy. He won a bronze medal as coach of Team Ontario at the 2003 Canada Winter Games and secured the gold medal at the 2004 world under-17 championship while leading another Ontario-based squad.
At the end of the day, OHL coaches don’t have goals, assists and penalty minutes to help judge their levels of success; rather, their reputations are built around wins, losses and the number of players they successfully develop. Based on this criterion, Bobby Jones is as sure-fire of a prospect as there is in the OHL right now.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading and until next time...
Mark Seidel is the chief scout for North American Central Scouting and co-hosts the radio show "Breakout; The Hockey Show; NHL 2009" on the Prime Sports Network. He is also a regular contributor to Hockey Night in Canada on Sirius Radio as their draft and junior hockey insider. Read his other blog entries HERE.