Top draft prospect Seth Jones (Getty Images)Growing up with his father Popeye Jones playing in the NBA, many expected Seth Jones to follow his father's footsteps by becoming a basketball player. But Jones decided to blaze his own trail in hockey.
"I had a lot of people assume I'd get into basketball because of my dad," says Jones, considered the top defenceman in the NHL draft class of 2013. "I just decided hockey was the sport for me. I love the intensity and fast-pace style. I originally got into hockey when I was living in Colorado. My friends were playing hockey, so I decided to play as well. I just started to love the sport and I stuck with it."
Many would also note that the 18-year-old Jones inherited impeccable athletic genes from his father, who is now an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets. But the Plano, Texas, native points out his mother, Amy Jones, really made it possible for him to learn the fundamentals and develop into a highly-talented defenceman.
"My dad was gone a lot when I was growing up," Seth Jones says. "He was on the road a lot while playing in the NBA. My mom took care of me a lot. She brought me out to hockey practices and games. I couldn't have kept up on hockey without her."
Jones became a very hot commodity at a young age. The Everett Silvertips selected him in the first round of the 2009 WHL bantam draft. Nonetheless, the 6-foot-4, 206-pound defender didn't sign on the dotted line. Instead, he weighed his options until deciding Everett wasn't the right fit for him after they fired their general manager Doug Soetaert last February.
"When they fired him (Soetaert) it was pretty devastating," says Jones. "That definitely was part of the reason why I didn't sign with Everett. He was the guy who I stayed in touch with and who originally drafted me."
It seemed Jones was headed down the college route, with the University of North Dakota his school of choice. Then GM-coach Mike Johnston's Portland Winterhawks made things interesting by acquiring his rights from the Silvertips. Soon after that, Jones decided Portland was the best spot for him to get to the next level.
"I chose the WHL over the college route because of mainly the game schedule," says Jones. "I think the WHL is a closer style to the NHL. And Portland is a good fit for me. I like what they're about."
Jones, who has scored two goals and six points in 11 games, has taken no time to adapt to the Dub. He has lived up to his hype on the Winterhawks' back end, playing exceptionally strongly at both ends of the ice. But that's not to say he hasn't had to jump through hurdles during his transition from the USHL to major junior.
"It's a lot more physical [than the USHL]," says Jones. "I think it is a little faster, too. You have to move the puck faster and just be quicker on your feet. The goalies are also more talented."
As it stands, it appears Jones is in a two-horse race with Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan MacKinnon to be selected first overall in the 2013 draft. Although he would be ecstatic to be the top pick of the draft, Jones isn't too worried about who goes ahead of who.
"If I get the chance to go first overall in the draft it would be awesome and an unbelievable experience," says Jones. "It would be a dream. But the draft is far away and the first pick in the draft doesn't always end up being the best player. So I'm not going to worry about it if it doesn't happen."
1. How would you describe yourself as a player?
"I'm a two-way defenceman. I pride myself on my skating and my hockey sense. Obviously, defence first, but I try to help my team out by putting up some points."
2. Is representing the U.S. at the world junior a major goal for you this year?
"Yeah, I really want to represent my country in that tournament. I haven't made the team yet, but I think the States should have a really good squad. We need to do better than last year. I know we can. I hope I can be a part of it."
3. Did you set a point-total goal or anything like that when you decided to join the Winterhawks?
"No, not really. I think you just have to focus on the team and helping your team win. I obviously want to contribute offensively, but I don't have a goal for a certain number of points."
4. Do you try to model your game after a player in the NHL?
"I try to play like [former Detroit Red Wings captain] Nicklas Lidstrom. He plays a smart, simple game. I try to play a similar style."
5. Who is your favourite NHL team?
"I've always loved the Detroit Red Wings. I started liking them when Pavel Datsyuk was young and they looked like a really good young squad."
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen.