Connor and Kellen Jones have shone in the Young Stars Classic in the eyes of their coach.
“If every player had the work ethic that they had, it would be a really fun game to watch because there would be high intensity and a lot of pressure,” said Todd Nelson of the Oklahoma City Barons following a 4-3 win against the Calgary Flames in the Battle of Alberta Saturday night. “I thought they played exceptionally well. One thing that always pops out is just their work ethic and their tenacious play. They were the go-to-guys at the end to preserve the win.”
Nelson said the twins play a smart game at both ends and they are tenacious they way they hunt the puck. They make it hard for other teams to play against them and he likes how they close time and space really quick and never give up. He also loves their play on special teams saying they are excellent on the penalty kill.
“It’s hard not to love these guys because they work so extremely hard.,” he said.
The Barons coach added that while the products from Montrose, B.C., are probably not as skilled or possess the finish other players in the tournament do, “their work ethic is unmatched.”
“It’s incredible to watch them play a game,” said Nelson. “They definitely don’t look out of place. If anything, they stand out as two players that can help any team in this tournament.”
Connor, who with his brother helped the Vernon Vipers win back-to-back RBC Cups, said it’s been unreal to play in the tournament. Having spent the last four years with the Quinnipiac Bobcats, they weren’t able to experience this.
“That was unreal just to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be at the top level in the world,” said Connor, who scored 49 goals and 129 points in 153 National Collegiate Athletic Association games. “Being here right now with some of the top players in the game, we are just trying to learn everything we can, relish it really.”
“We want to play at the highest level possible,” said Connor, who loved watching former Vancouver Canuck, Florida Panther and New York Rangers star Pavel Bure play. “It’s our job now. What a feeling. It’s a dream come true.”
Connor said things feel right for them playing in the tournament because the time they spent developing at Quinnipiac. The time their allowed them to get bigger and stronger. What Connor has loved about playing in the Young Stars Classic has been putting on the Oilers jersey.
“It was a pretty special feeling,” said Connor, who signed with them as a free agent after his college career ended. “It’s just been a great experience.”
For Kellen, drafted by the Oilers in 2010 in the seventh round, 202nd overall, the feeling is the same.
“We’ve been waiting for a long time to come here,” he said. “We’re not allowed to come to rookie camp in university. Really excited to be here with great players.”
Now the former Beaver Valley Nitehawks have just been focused on working hard and playing their game. Both have also enjoyed being back in Penticton.
“It’s funny, coming back to Penticton, it’s kind of where it all began,” said Kellen as they joined the Vipers as 16-year-olds and faced the Vees in the playoffs. “The first two games have been great for us.”
“It’s kind of cool that it’s where it started and now we are back here at this tournament,” said Connor. “It’s a special place for us and a lot of good memories for sure.”
The Young Stars Classic action continues today at 2 p.m. as the Canucks take on the Winnipeg Jets prospects, then the hometown Penticton Vees will host the Merritt Centennials at 5:30 p.m.