HALIFAX, Nova Scotia -- While the 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game will be dominated by Canadian-born players, it's worth noting that five Americans will also be strutting their stuff on Wednesday at Metro Centre.
Leading the way is Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones of Plano, Texas. He will be joined on Team Orr by Quebec Remparts forward Adam Erne of New Haven, Conn., and Kitchener Rangers forward Justin Bailey of Williamsville, N.Y.
The two U.S. representative on Team Cherry are Plymouth Whalers forward Ryan Hartman of West Dundee, Ill., and Oshawa Generals forward Cole Cassels of Columbus, Ohio. Hartman and Jones each played a big role for Team USA in a gold medal-winning performance at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.
NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory believes it's a sign of the times to see more Americans participating at the CHL Top Prospects Game.
"First of all, more Americans are comfortable coming to the CHL to develop their career and when you get a guy like Seth Jones, who is a potential first overall pick doing it, I think that's the kind of trend you're starting to see," Gregory told NHL.com. "The teams pick who they want here, so it's almost on who they feel are the best prospects and who they want to see in this game. I think there's more Americans in the league so there's a chance more Americans will get here.
"The fact they are highly ranked Americans, I think, is more significant in that means more are playing hockey and it can only increase as the years go by."
Jones is No. 1 on Central Scouting's midterm list of draft-eligible North American skaters revealed on Tuesday. Erne is No. 13, Hartman is No. 25 and Bailey is No. 37.
"It's pretty special," Bailey told NHL.com. "I think in a league dominated by Canadians, it is kind of cool to be considered one of the top CHL prospects, especially when the CHL is one of, if not the top league in the world when it comes to junior hockey."
"It's definitely really cool to see the development of U.S. players and, obviously, winning the gold medal at World Juniors this year was pretty spectacular," Hartman said. "It's good to see players from the United States playing so well in the CHL."
Hartman, who is known for his aggressive and gritty style of play, has nine multiple-point games this season. He notched his first career hat trick for Plymouth, including the overtime winner, in a 4-3 victory over Erie on Jan. 12.
"Ryan played a huge role [at the WJC]; his line wore teams out, I think," Jones said. "When his line was on the ice, I don't think they were scored upon one time in the tournament. He knows how to wear out defensemen; we could not have won that tourney without him or that line [with Cole Bardreau and Blake Pietila]."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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