Having bypassed the 2012 CWHL Draft and opting for Europe, Jess Jones’ decision was a surprise to many fans. After graduating from the Mercyhurst Lakers, she competed for Pantera Minsk in Belarus during the 2012-13 campaign. After a historic performance with her new club, the window to play for the CWHL was still wide open at season’s end.
Obtained by the Brampton Thunder in the first round (third overall) of the 2013 CWHL Draft, it was the most logocal option for new General Manager Lori Dupuis. Facing the loss of Jayna Hefford (the CWHL’s all-time leading scorer), third-generation star Gillian Apps, Vicki Bendus and Bailey Bram (another Mercyhurst alumnae) to Canada’s centralization camp, Brampton faced a decimated offense heading into the season.
Compounded by the retirement of Cherie Piper, Jones becomes a key piece to Brampton’s rebuilding puzzle. After four coaches in two seasons, penalty problems and a heartbreaking loss to the Toronto Furies in the Clarkson Cup playoffs, Jones is a breath of fresh air for the beleaguered franchise.
With the selection of Jess Jones third overall in the 2013 CWHL Draft, it marks the third consecutive year that a Mercyhurst Lakers player is selected in the first round. In 2011, Meghan Agosta (drafted first overall by Montreal), Vicki Bendus and Jesse Scanzano were first round picks. The following year, goaltender Hillary Pattenden followed in Agosta’s footsteps and was drafted first overall by the Alberta Hockey Club.
In 138 career games with the Mercyhurst Lakers, she would log 154 career points. Complemented by four College Hockey American regular season titles and four NCAA tournament appearances, Jones is a proven winner that can help restore the pride in Brampton.
Her scoring flair continued last season with Pantera Minsk. Having played in just 19 games, she recorded 28 goals and 25 assists for a sterling 53 point output. As the only Canadian on the team, she would emerge as the leading scorer for the European Women’s Hockey League club.
Participating in the 2013 EWHL Supercup, Jones contributed eight points as she helped Pantera Minsk grab their first-ever championship. In dramatic fashion, Jones would score twice in the title game, a 6-1 triumph over defending champion Sabres Vienna. Her sparkling performance was complemented by a nod to the Tournament All-Star team.
It is that type of performance that Brampton fans will hope Jones can provide in the near future as the beleaguered Thunder continue to chase that elusive Clarkson Cup championship.
With Brampton in a rebuilding year, Jones certainly stands a key building block for a brighter future ahead. The eventual return of former Mercyhurst teammates and current Thunder superstars Bailey Bram and Vicki Bendus from the Canadian centralization camp will create a remarkable scoring line, reuniting the Lakers legends of seasons past.
Next to Jessica Wong, Jones may be the only other first round pick that will be expected to carry the lion’s share of the offensive load. Although Jones’ leadership skills and offensive play making abilities make her a strong Rookie of the Year candidate, her inaugural season in the CWHL will certainly be a baptism of fire.