Jones enjoying learning experience with Kings
Mike Ashmore, ECHL.com
NEWARK, N.J. – It’s safe to say that Los Angeles Kings goaltender Martin Jones hasn't made a name for himself quite yet during his first Stanley Cup Finals.
His locker in the cramped visitor's dressing room at the Prudential Center amounted to little more than a nameplate and a red folding chair surrounded by his gear. At one of the practices, a reporter came up to him and started interviewing him as if he were Jonathan Bernier.
Jones, 22, is serving as the Kings third goalie after having spent all season in the American Hockey League with the Manchester Monarchs.
But, unlike the Devils' AHL players, who are skating separately from the team, Los Angeles has integrated Jones and some of the "black aces" with the regular group.
"It's great, just seeing all these guys and what they go through and their attention to detail in everything they do," Jones told ECHL.com
"It's another great learning tool for me, and I'm trying to just absorb as much as I can while I'm here. You don't want to bother any of these guys while they're this deep, but they do a great job and everyone's been really nice and welcomed us with open arms. It's made it a lot easier for sure."
The North Vancouver native is just a season removed from starting out his year with the Ontario Reign, for whom he played just one game.
"It was my first year pro, and it was obviously just a numbers thing," Jones said. "There wasn't room for me up in the American League, but it was a good experience for me. I was only there for a short time, but it was a good learning tool for me."
Jones, who had played for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships in 2010, didn't last long in the ECHL, taking Erik Ersberg's spot in Manchester after he bolted for the KHL. But does have some memories about his lone contest there, earning his first professional win in an Oct. 16, 2010 overtime victory against the Stockton Thunder in which he stopped 26 of 30 shots.
"It's good hockey, there are a lot of skilled players there," he said.
"It was early in the season, and we were just kind of feeling each other out with new teammates and whatnot, but it was good hockey. There were a lot of good players down there. I wanted to be at the next level, and I wasn't, but I wanted to go down and work hard and I knew at some point I'd get a chance."
Jones has made the most of that chance, putting up solid numbers in each of his first two AHL seasons, even earning a spot in the 2011 AHL All-Star Game thanks to a season in which he posted career bests in goals against average (2.25), save percentage (.924) and wins (23).
Now, he has to find a way to create a chance at the NHL level. He's battling with fellow ECHL alum Jeff Zatkoff for playing time in Manchester, and is stuck behind two fellow young goaltenders in Bernier and former Reading Royals standout Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles.
"I just worry about what I can do, and all I can do is play my best wherever I am and work hard," Jones said.
"If I do get a chance, I need to make sure I'm ready for it."