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Jones could be centerpiece of new prospects game

by Mike G. Morreale /

In an effort to promote the top U.S.-born draft-eligible hockey players competing throughout North America, USA Hockey on Monday announced the inaugural All-American Prospects Game will be held this fall at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y.

The game, scheduled for Sept. 29, will include 40 of the top American prospects eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft.

"It's a concept we've been talking about for a couple of years and we're excited to bring it to life in partnership with the Buffalo Sabres," USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean said. "The talent level on the First Niagara Center ice on Sept. 29 will be exceptional. We view this game as an opportunity to gain additional exposure for hockey and help influence growth of the sport through showcasing the future stars of the game."

Seth Jones currently is starring for the unbeaten U.S. team at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in the Czech Republic. (Photo: Getty Images)

Prospects will come from the United States Hockey League, which includes the U.S. National Team Development Program, as well as the Canadian Hockey League, U.S. scholastic programs, and U.S. colleges. USA Hockey expects to announce the 40 participating players for the game by early July. Under the current structure, players born between Jan. 1, 1993 and Sept. 14, 1995, are eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft.

"We'll be in contact with NHL Central Scouting as we build the final list of players invited to compete in this inaugural event," USA Hockey assistant executive director of hockey operations Jim Johannson said.

One player sure to be invited, barring injury, is defenseman Seth Jones. Jones, the son of former NBA forward and current New Jersey Nets assistant coach Ronald "Popeye" Jones, plays for the USNTDP under-18 team, and currently is starring for the unbeaten U.S. team at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship in the Czech Republic, the second straight year he's been on the team. He had three assists in six games last year to help the U.S. win its third straight gold medal at the event.

"It's very rare to find it so difficult to determine a hole in someone's game, but Seth is that type of player," USNTDP coach Danton Cole, who also is coaching the U.S. team at the World U-18 tournament, told "He's the kind of kid that if you show him once, he does it right once and won't do it wrong again. There's an amazing feel for the game of hockey within him, and he has that sixth sense where to go. He knows how to create space and defensively knows when to jump in and when not to go."

In 46 games with the USNTDP this season, Jones had five goals and 23 points. Many NHL scouts feel the 6-foot-3, 201-pound Jones will be selected among the top two picks in 2013.

"It's really hard to put a finger on one particular thing that he does so well, but his natural feel and instinct as an athlete just fit the game of hockey so well," Cole said. "It's kind of like Lance Armstrong … God steered him toward being a bike racer and everything fit. Somehow, Seth ended up playing hockey, and it's been a perfect fit; he's a pleasure to coach."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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