He came to training camp as a relative unknown, a suspected fringe player on the last year of his contract, trying to make an impression and earn a fulltime job.
Ryan Jones has since developed into a dependable player capable of filling a number of different roles.
On Saturday, the Chatham, Ont., native collected his career-high ninth goal of the season in a 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. Only two players on the Oilers roster have scored more often this season.
“I think the outside expectations of my game were a lot lower then what I had for me coming in,” said Jones. “People assumed that I was going to battle for a spot and just be in and out of the lineup. In my eyes, I was going to come in battle for a spot and make it a hard decision for the coaches to let me go and that’s what I did.
“From there, I just continued to play hard. And when you play hard and go to the net, pucks sometimes bounce your way. I’m not going to say that I fully expected this, but I’m not surprised by any means.”
A fourth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2004, Jones, 26, was traded to the Predators shortly after graduating from Miami University (Ohio), where he scored 31 goals and added 18 assists in 42 games with the RedHawks in his senior year.
Jones played parts of two seasons with the Predators — scoring seven goals both years — before being waived and claimed by the Oilers last season just prior to the trade deadline.
“It was a just a different situation in Nashville,” Jones said. “Teams have situations where they see guys fit and it has a lot to do with ice time. I was playing four minutes a night there and that just happened to be the situation, I was expendable in that organization.
“I was glad to be picked up here and I’m trying to make the most of the situation I have.”
On Saturday, Jones moved up into Jordan Eberle’s spot once the rookie went down with an ankle injury.
The move showcased the versatility of the six-foot, 205-pound winger and the confidence head coach Tom Renney has started to show in him.
It’s something Jones worked hard to earn, having had his struggles at the beginning of the year.
“He found purgatory too for a bit,” said Renney. “You remember he and his line sat out after they gave up two goals in two shifts. They might as well have been in the press box. But he responded very well to that and that’s what you want players to do.
“You want them to accept the responsibility for their performance and they want a coach that has the jam to give them an opportunity to come back and do something about it and he’s answered the bell.”
A knee injury kept Ryan Jones from making much of an impression last season with the Oilers, limiting him to eight games after being picked up off waivers.
He came into camp this year expected to battle for a fourth-line spot, but has been moved up in the lineup when the need arose.
“I haven’t changed my game in a long time,” Jones said. “I always say just go to the net. I did the same thing (Saturday) and Gibby (Tom Gilbert) made an unbelievable pass. I was yelling my head off, he just threw it to the side of the net and it was just a matter of just getting it on net and that’s what I did.
“Tom has confidence in me. I’ve always said I’ll try to make the best of every situation and when my name gets called, I’ll try to go over and I’ll give 100%, that’s all I can do.”