Zachary Jones was born in the small town of Glenn Allen, Virginia to a minor pro hockey equipment manager who had his son in skates at an early age. Zac’s passion for the game grew as did his ability and he climbed his way up the amateur hockey ranks. At 15 years old he secured a spot on one of the country’s premier midget hockey programs; South Kent School, also known as Selects Academy in Connecticut.
“South Kent was the only school that I toured and I fell in love with it right from the start,” said Jones. “I was recruited by Coach Rask and couldn’t turn down the opportunity to get a great education and play for a powerhouse program who competes for national championships every year.”
In his first season, his team made it the Tier 1 National Tournament in Pittsburgh, PA and Jones was one of their top performers. Despite his success, most colleges and junior teams kept their distance, afraid of his 5’5” frame as a defenseman. Although he was selected twice to the National Development Camp in Buffalo, NY for the country’s top 180 skaters, he was passed over in the USHL Draft for two straight years.
“Honestly getting passed up twice in the draft has helped my development. I’ve always been a smaller kid and when some teams told me this year that I was too small, I was so mad that all I could think about was proving all of the coaches and scouts what they were missing when they passed on me.”
He didn’t get discouraged about being undrafted and uncommitted. Instead, he sought out Selects Academy U18 Head Coach Matt Plante to ask why he was getting overlooked and what he could do about it. After working on his game both on and off the ice in the spring, he came into the summer hockey an improved, more polished prospect.
“Colleges really started to call me after the Liberty Bell Games and it just took off from there.” Liberty Bell Games is a showcase of the best 2000-2002 talent in the Atlantic region put on by longtime NHL Scout Lew Mongezzulo.
His recruitment began quickly and schools from across the East were starting to show interest and inviting him on campus for tours.
“I toured Providence, RPI, Union, and UMass, but it came down to UMass and Union. It was the hardest decision of my life but I thought UMass was the best fit for me. It was hard because I have so much respect for Coach Bennett and the Union coaching staff. UMass has everything a hockey player could ask for, top notch facilities, an unbelievable coaching staff, and a great campus and school. The coaching staff at UMass is one of, if not, the top coaching staffs in all of college hockey.”
With his college destination now in place, he is focused on having a strong season with Selects Academy U18’s and competing for a National Championship.
What kind of player can fans expect from the Virginia native?
“I like to play an offensive game, but with that being said I always make sure that our own end comes first. A lot of defenseman play a go-go-go type of game, where as I like to slow the play down and control the puck.”
Jones’ story may not be the most typical, coming out of a small town in Virginia and being a 5’5” defenseman; but his perseverance, work ethic and skill provide a great example to youth players that it doesn’t matter how big you are or where you come from. If you can play, you can play and Zachary Jones can play.
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling / Hickling Images