GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The player most in the spotlight for USA Hockey at this week's World Junior Championship selection camp is defenseman Seth Jones. The 6-foot-4 blueliner is considered by some to be the most talented player in the 2013 NHL Draft class, and after losing a spot on last year's WJC team due to an injury in the final exhibition game, he's considered a lock to fill a major role on this year's team.
"He continues to be a dynamic player that happens to be 6-foot-4 and a defenseman that can do so much in the game. That's rare," U.S. team GM Jim Johansson said. "I think decision-making continues to get better and better. Not that it was poor before, but it seems like his game matures as the competition matures."
He's certainly shown the ability to step up his game to match the competition. In his first season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League this season, he's tied for fifth among WHL defensemen with 28 points, and he recently had a nine-game point-scoring streak.
"At the start I got a little uncomfortable in the league for it being my first season," Jones said. "The first couple games it really took me a while to get comfortable with the speed of play and the type of play in the league. Right now I think I'm doing great. I'm very comfortable with the way I'm playing. My teammates have been great, they've really helped me get comfortable with the league and develop with the speed of play. It's been an unbelievable year."
Jones expects the fun to continue when the U.S. arrives in Ufa, Russia for the WJC. After being forced to watch last year's tournament from home with a shoulder injury, Jones agreed with a question about whether he was "hungrier" this year.
"That's a good word to use," he said. "I'm really eager to play this year. I know we're going to have a great year, be a lot better than last year. I'm really looking forward to it."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK