With Monday night's victory, the Windsor Spitfires have guaranteed themselves a berth in their second consecutive Memorial Cup final.
A big contributor to the team's success is associate coach Bob Jones.
Historically, the Ontario Hockey League has been a breeding ground for not only players, but coaches and executives as well. In my opinion, and with all due respect to star players Taylor Hall, Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley, the guy in this tournament who may have the brightest NHL future is the one running the defence for the Spitfires.
Jones not only helps the young men that he coaches, he practically guarantees them a shot in professional hockey.
Since he began coaching defencemen in his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie in 1995, he has played a key role in the development of dozens of future pro blue-liners. To be exact, he has helped produce 40 prospects who have moved on to professional hockey. Among those, 14 have played in the NHL, including Marc Staal, Rostislav Klesla, Shane O'Brian, Ryan Wilson and Kevin Klein. On top of that, he has a number of former protégés knocking on the door from the American Hockey League, including Rob Kwiet, Jonathan D'Aversa and Scott Lehman.
As you examine Jones' coaching record, something you can't ignore is the fact that he's also taken guys who were low draft picks or undrafted free agents — like Wilson and the Vancouver Canucks' 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 CHL's top teams. The work he has done with Mark Cundari, Harry Young, Ryan Ellis and Marc Cantin has resulted in all four of those kids having a good chance at making the pros.
Along with those four, Jones has been handed the task of molding Fowler, a top NHL draft prospect who can sleep easy knowing his development is in capable and proven hands.
If you are wondering whether Jones' coaching ability is limited to defence, he has had two opportunities as a head coach with Ontario's under-17 program, and both times he came out with hardware. 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 these criteria, Jones is as sure-fire a prospect as there is in the OHL right now.
Mark Seidel is the chief scout for North American Central Scouting. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org