NEWARK, N.J. -- Before becoming coach of the Buffalo Sabres, Ron Rolston got an early glimpse of why defenseman Seth Jones will be one of the first players picked at Sunday at the 2013 NHL Draft (3 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN).
Rolston was coaching the United States National Team Development Program's under-18 team during the 2010-11 season when Jones was called up from the U-17 team to play 20 regular-season games, and six more during the 2011 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
Rolston said all of the attributes that have intrigued NHL scouts were obvious from the moment he first saw Jones on the ice.
"Obviously his size and that potential, he's probably going to grow more," Rolston told NHL.com. "His ability to command the game, his hockey sense. He can control the game when he's on the ice. He can attack with the puck, he can move it up with his transition passing. He's a guy that really accelerates your team both defensively and offensively. You can tell the poise he played with as a young player, especially on defense. We're looking at defensemen at the NHL level to have the poise with the puck on the defensive end, and he's one of the guys who has that."
Rolston spent five seasons with the USNTDP program, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., prior to joining the Sabres organization in 2011, and said he's happy to see Jones, as well as a few other players from that program have the chance to hear their names called early Sunday.
"It's again another testament to the development that's going on in Ann Arbor and continues to go on there," he said. "The possibility of having Ryan Hartman and JT Compher going in the first round, too. Certainly the development going on there is giving these guys an opportunity to continue their growth physically, and more importantly just the adversity that they go through at the program, with the [domestic] competition and the overseas competition and being able to play the best players in the world and test themselves. Really gives them the ability to accelerate, because they've been through so much."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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