U.S. World Junior Spotlight: Seth Jones

Seth Jones -- USAHockey.com

Seth Jones — Defense
Hometown: Plano, Texas  Birthdate: October 3, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’3″/201
Current Team: U.S. National Under-18 Team (NTDP)
NHL Rights: Draft Eligible in 2013
National Team Experience: National Team Development Program (2010-present), U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team (gold, 2011)

Despite turning 17 less than two months ago, Seth Jones is one of the best defensemen in the U.S. National Junior Team’s incredibly deep pool of candidates. That’s no exaggeration. The kid can flat out play.

Everything that has been thrown at young Seth Jones has been met with nothing but the player’s best. Since his best is better than most others’ best, he’s had a lot of success. He put up 31 points in his first year at the NTDP. He excelled at the World Under-17 Challenge. He somehow exceeded lofty expectations at the 2011 IIHF World Under-18 Championship earning top-four minutes in some huge games. Then USA Hockey said… ah what the hell, let’s make him the only 16-year-old defenseman invited to the National Junior Evaluation Camp since who knows when. Ya know, just for kicks.

So what does Seth Jones do in Lake Placid? He outperforms first- and second-round draft picks, WJC veterans and finds a way to keep many of America’s elite U20 forwards in check. Then Jones makes it all the way to the end of camp and earns rave reviews from media and most importantly, his potential World Junior coach.

Jones has continued his solid play during his second NTDP season with the U.S. National Under-18 Team. Though the team has struggled to win consistently, it recently captured the 2011 U18 Four Nations Cup. Jones has been a leader on that team and in a recent conversation, U18 head coach Danton Cole raved about Jones’ work ethic and maturity.

Having played against the older, stronger players in NCAA Division I and some of the USHL’s best squads all year, the age gap is almost a non-factor for Jones. It also means the physicality shouldn’t phase the youngster in what is often a 19-year-old’s tournament.

It is only natural for Dean Blais and his staff to have some concern over including such a young player on the final roster, especially one on the back end. However, they got a glimpse at Jones’ mature, dependable game at the World U18s, the NJEC in Lake Placid and if there’s any doubt remaining, Jones can quash it at the pre-tournament camp.

Jones almost assuredly will be a part of the pre-tournament camp and to take it even further I can’t see him being left off the roster. To go just one step further yet, it would not surprise me if he played a substantial role for Team USA in Alberta as the tournament wears on. Seems like a stretch to say it, but if there is a kid that can do it, it’s Seth Jones.

There was some head scratching when Canada announced its roster for its selection camp and 2013 eligible Nathan MacKinnon wasn’t listed. Don’t expect fellow 2013-eligible Jones to share the same fate. These two will likely be in a long battle for the first overall pick in that 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but Jones may be the one with a gigantic stage this winter and thus, a bit of a head start.

One other age-related note: There is a very good chance the U.S. will be without a 1993-born defenseman on this roster, meaning if Jones, a 1994-born, makes the team, he’d likely be the only blueliner eligible to return for next year’s club. So there is also the added benefit of getting Jones that World Junior experience for the future, without hurting Team USA’s chances to win it this year.

Looking at the defensive pool for USA Hockey that may not include Justin Faulk (in the NHL) or Jon Merrill (yet to play a game in 2011-12), Jones belongs. Even if both of those guys are available, there’s still room for Jones, it just means Blais can ease the youngster into the tournament a little more.

The Texas native should be able to handle the physical, mental and emotional challenges the WJC provides and contribute if he’s given the chance.

Seth Jones hasn’t really failed yet in his young career. There’s no reason to believe that will change now.

More notes on Jones:
– Currently playing in his second season at the National Team Development Program
– Leads all U18 defensemen with 10 points (1-9) in 22 games this year
– In 2010-11, posted 21 points (4-17) in 37 games with the U.S. U17s and 10 points (0-10) in 20 U18 contests
– Helped the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team capture its third consecutive gold medal at the 2011 IIHF World Under-18 Championship
– Posted three assists as the youngest player on Team USA
– Prior to joining the NTDP, played for the Dallas Jr. Stars
– Son of Popeye Jones, who played 11 years in the NBA
–  Seth Jones’ USA Hockey Bio

Several times per week, until the U.S. National Junior Team’s pre-tournament camp roster is announced, The United States of Hockey will highlight a candidate for the team. We’ll be taking a look at players from the near locks to the dark-horse candidates to the out-of-left-field possibilities.

Previous Player Spotlights:
Emerson Etem
Jack Campbell
Jon Merrill
Bill Arnold
Kyle Rau
Brian Ferlin
Justin Faulk
Nick Bjugstad 

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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