Iowa Heartlander goalkeeper Hunter Jones to make most of opportunity

The 21-year-old played 19 games with the AHL’s Iowa Wild last season and is training with the Heartlanders ahead of their season-opener Oct. 22.


Jeff Sigmund

Players move around the arena during the Heartlanders first practice on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. (Jeff Sigmund/The Daily Iowan)

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

Iowa Heartlander goalkeeper Hunter Jones had a rough start to his professional hockey career for the AHL’s Iowa Wild last February.

The 21-year-old goaltender from Ontario, Canada, surrendered 19 goals in his first three games with the Iowa Wild. Jones did not earn his first win until his seventh game with the club.

The season was not looking promising for Minnesota’s second-round draft pick in the 2019 NHL Draft — the fourth goaltender selected that year. 

By season’s end, Jones had amassed a 9-9-1 record with a 3.50 goals against average.

Jones started the 2021-22 preseason in the Minnesota Wild training camp before moving down to train with the Iowa Wild. Now, Jones is in the ECHL on the Iowa Heartlanders’ roster — a step below the AHL.

“I definitely knew there was a number of goaltenders Minnesota had that one or a couple of guys were going to end spending some time down here,” Jones said after completing his first practice with the Heartlanders Monday. “So, obviously one of us had to go down here first, and that’s the way pro hockey is. Myself, being a younger guy, I’m going to have to learn and adapt and just enjoy the ride and get better every day.” 

Jones said his practice habits improved during the 2020-21 season with the Iowa Wild — translating into success during games. With his 6-foot-4 frame, Jones said he can utilize his height with his athletic ability to find a hybrid style of play.

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“He understands that in order to play at this level, and beyond this level, your conditioning is paramount,” Heartlanders head coach Gerry Fleming said. “His work ethic is what really stands out to me. He doesn’t have much wasted movement. His movements are pretty good. He’s definitely got to improve on his footwork a little bit, but there’s a lot of positive signs moving forward with his game.” 

If Jones remains on the roster come the Heartlanders’ first game Oct. 22, he should have a chance to register a lot of minutes at goal — an opportunity he may not have had on the Iowa Wild roster.

The other two goaltenders on the Heartlanders roster are Trevin Kozlowski — who played one AHL game last season — and Ryan Edquist, who is on a tryout contract after playing five years at Minnesota State-Mankato.

While he was training with the Minnesota Wild, Jones said he didn’t feel too out of place among the NHL players. 

Jones trained with Minnesota veteran goaltender Cam Talbot, who has played 347 NHL games in his career and has registered 169 career wins at hockey’s highest level. 

Jones noticed that the 34-year-old had great positioning and let the puck come to him, which is different than some younger goaltenders — who tend to scramble when the puck is in their area. 

“I mean you find with the older guys, they get older, they can’t move as well as the younger guys,” Jones said. “They have to work smarter rather than harder, and you pick up on that. And it’s easier for you to sit back and watch them play and they’re more technically sound on the net.”