Seth Jones, a 1994-born defenseman and potential top pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, was injured in last night’s game against Russia and will be kept out of the World Junior Championship, Lindsay Berra of ESPN The Magazine reported.
I had been receiving messages from various sources over the course of the morning indicating that Jones was likely to be ruled out, but was unable to officially confirm. Berra got the final word from a USA spokesman.
A short time later, USA Hockey posted the following statement on its World Junior blog:
Team USA defenseman Seth Jones sustained an upper-body injury in last night’s exhibition game against Russia, and will not be able to participate in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship.
So what does this mean for Team USA now? Find out after the jump.
This is a tough loss for both the player and team. The good news for Seth Jones is that he’ll get at least one more kick at the World Junior can, as he is merely 17. It’s bad news for Team USA, though.
Jones was looking more and more like he’d not just make it, but be a key player on the American blue line that was already thinned with Justin Faulk not being made available by Carolina. Losing such a dependable, big defenseman is not what you want just the day before the final roster is to be announced.
With Jones officially out, that means there’s only one cut to be made on the blue line. Team USA won’t be able to replace Jones outright, but they’ve got four players that they have to decide from for their final two spots, it would appear.
The window of opportunity just got opened a little wider for 2012 NHL Entry Draft-eligible Jacob Trouba.
Trouba, I’m told, has made a good case for himself to be part of the final roster. His skill set is certainly there. As a good skater, with great strength and a bit of a mean streak, Trouba can hack it at the World Junior level. The concern is whether or not he can handle the mental and emotional aspects. He’ll have to show that tonight.
This could also be a big opportunity for Kevin Gravel, who was scratched in last night’s loss against Russia. Gravel is a big-bodied defenseman with good mobility. He provides a somewhat similar skill set to Jones and helps Team USA maintain a size advantage on the blue line. He’ll get his shot to prove himself tonight against Switzerland.
Austin Levi seems to have made a pretty good case for himself already. I think losing competition in camp makes it more likely for Levi to earn a spot.
Stephen Johns also may have a lot to prove tonight. He’s a big defenseman, who’s probably the strongest guy among players in camp. He’ll have to keep his wits about him tonight and prove that he can be relied on.
With Jones out of the mix, it changes a few dynamics of how this D corps will be built, or so it would seem. For a 17-year-old, he leaves a pretty sizable hole.
You never like to see a player leave due to injury, but now it gives another guy a chance to step up and earn a spot. The competition will be fierce for that last slot tonight.
USA Hockey announces its final U.S. National Junior Team roster Thursday morning on USAHockey.com.
Later today, I’ll have my projections for who I think makes the final 22-man roster for Team USA. Stay tuned.