UFA, RUSSIA – Seth Jones isn't content with how he's played through two games of the world junior hockey championship.
"I have another gear to go to," the American defenceman said on Saturday. "I haven't played to my full potential, but for the most part I've been pretty solid defensively and created a little offensively as well."
What's holding Jones back? The travel and time change perhaps?
"It's a good question," he acknowledged. "Not as much the travel and stuff, I don't know, I've just been making some plays out there where I haven't been myself really. I just got to be better a little bit."
Jones, who has a goal and an assist and is plus-four in games against Germany and Russia, will likely need to be at his best on Sunday when the Americans take on Canada. Jones will be called upon to help shut down Canada's top line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (two goals, five assists in two games), Jonathan Huberdeau (one goal, three assists) and Mark Scheifele (three goals, one assist).
"That line is tremendous," said Jones, who is a contender to go first overall at the next NHL draft. "They have a lot of speed and a lot of skill so you got to try and take away their time and space as much as possible down low and really push them to make plays."
Jones seems to thrive off the Canada-USA rivalry and captained the American squad past its border rivals during April's under-18 championship.
"We respect them to the full," said Jones. "They're a great club and I've been a part of this rivalry for a couple of years now with the under-17 Challenge and two years at the under-18s. Lucky that I was able to come out on top a couple of times, but this is a little bit of a bigger stage and we'll see what happens."
One of the players Jones faced in the under-17 event was Nate MacKinnon, who has skated on Canada's fourth line so far at the tournament.
"I don't like to talk about it too much," MacKinnon joked after Saturday's practice before lavishing praise on Jones.
"He's very fluid skater, great shot as well, he has no flaw in his game," said MacKinnon, who is competing with Jones for that prestigious No. 1 pick honour at the next draft.
The mutual respect between Jones and MacKinnon was not shaken by the American's pre-tournament pronouncement that he felt his team <a href="http://www.tsn.ca/chl/story/?id=412005" target="_blank">was the "best" heading in</a>.
"Obviously, I disagree with what he said," said MacKinnon, who has worked out with Jones the last two summers. "He's a confident guy, he's not cocky at all, I don't know if anyone took that as cocky, he's a very humble guy."