Defenseman Seth Jones, one of the favorites to be the first pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, has signed to play with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League next season.
The Winterhawks had acquired Jones' WHL rights from the Everett Silvertips in April.
"Seth is a world-class player with the ability to come in and make an immediate impact next season," Portland coach/GM Mike Johnston said. "He combines tremendous offensive instincts with the ability to be a shut-down defenseman in his own end. This is a very big signing for us, and we're thrilled he's chosen to continue his career with the Winterhawks and the Western Hockey League."
Jones had spent the last two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program. In 48 games with the USNTDP Under-18 team, he had six goals, 20 assists and just 18 penalty minutes. He also won his second straight gold medal at the World Under-18 Championship in April. Serving as co-captain, he had three goals and five assists in six games. His eight points were second among all defensemen at the tournament and second among all U.S. players.
"I'm thrilled to be joining the Winterhawks and the Western Hockey League," Jones said. "When the organization hosted me [in early May] I knew right away this was where I wanted to be. I've heard nothing but good things about the Winterhawks and the WHL and I can't wait to get started there."
Under Johnston, Portland has become a solid developer of NHL talent in recent seasons, producing two first-round picks in each of the last two drafts -- among them defensemen Joseph Morrow, taken with the 23rd pick last year by the Penguins.
Sweetening the deal was the Winterhawks selection of Jones' younger brother, Caleb, in the recent WHL bantam draft.
Seth had the option of picking an NCAA program or delaying his decision by a year by playing in the United States Hockey League -- the Waterloo Black Hawks held his rights. Jones' father, former NBA player and current New Jersey Nets assistant coach Ronald "Popeye" Jones, told NHL.com in August that he and Seth's mother would allow their son to make the final decision on his playing future.
"Do I want him to get an education, whether he plays college hockey or not? Absolutely," Popeye Jones said. "But you can get a college education now and not go on a college campus the way they have things set up, through the Internet, correspondence courses. … We feel he's mature enough to make his own decision."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK