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Jones ready for break-out performance in first WJHC

TSN.ca Staff

12/18/2012 6:59:59 PM

After missing out on the 2012 World Junior Championship in Alberta, Seth Jones is headed to Ufa, Russia with a point to prove.

The Portland Winterhawks defenceman is projected as a top two pick in next summer's NHL Draft and has already set about impressing his American teammates as well as the brass for Team USA.

With the eyes of every NHL club likely to be on him at the upcoming World Juniors, Jones isn't about to let the attention get him off his game.

"You know the scouts are going to be out there watching," Jones told TSN on Tuesday, "but you gotta put all that stuff aside and continue to play your game throughout the tournament and do your best to help your team win a gold medal."

Jones will likely log heavy minutes against the tournament's top players and could even wind up wearing a letter for the American team.

The men that put Jones on the team are confident in his ability to line up against the number-one draft picks that will lead his Group A competition: Canada's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Russia's Nail Yakupov.

"I think decision-making keeps getting better and better," said Team USA general manager Jim Johansson. "It seems like his game has matured as the competition matures for him."

But his leadership has not just been limited to his on-ice efforts, according to his coaches.

"I'm just really intrigued with the way he carries himself off the ice," said U.S. head coach and former NHL All-Star Phil Housley. "He's a very calming, settling factor and I think it rubs off on the rest of the guys."

A standout with the Winterhawks in the WHL this season, Jones has amassed 28 points and a plus-28 rating in 31 games. He has reached the second spot on the International Scouting Service's prospect list and has even been labeled the top draft-eligible prospect in TSN Scout Craig Button's latest rankings.

Jones has put himself into a position of leadership on the American blue line, which is no small feat, considering the U.S. defence corps should include first-round picks such as the Winnipeg Jets' Jacob Trouba and the Phoenix Coyotes' Connor Murphy.

Still, Jones chooses to focus on the team effort rather than his individual performance.

"I'm really eager to play this year," he said. "I know we're going to have a great year and it's going to be a lot better than last year."

- with files from TSN reporter John Lu