Seth Jones has made The Decision — and did not drag it out any longer than needed. The consensus top defenceman in next season's NHL draft class, whose interest in playing in the Western Hockey League became public knowledge five weeks ago, has decided to play for the Portland Winterhawks.
Since the Winterhawks only acquired the rights to speak with Jones when they made a deal with the Everett Silvertips two weeks ago, Portland will have to pay more. From from the sounds of a column out of Portland by Jeff Spiegel, the Winterhawks are doing up Jones' commitment large, with plans to hold "some sort of video conference" before Game 4 of the WHL final against Edmonton.
After Portland acquired the rights to negotiate with him on April 23, Jones, 17, and his mother visited the city last week, touring the rinks and meeting with the coaches and advisors. On Saturday night, Jones made his decision official and signed his Winterhawks contract.
The announcement will be made publicly tomorrow night before game four, when Jones said some sort of video conference will be set up.
"I'm very excited about it because I was able to get comfortable with the coaching staff and the facilities," he said. "The pro schedule was big for me, and this was just a gut feeling I have." (Portland Tribune)
There's not much need to repeat ad nauseam that big things have been projected for Jones pretty much since prospect watchers started tracking 1994-birthdate players. He The son of former NBA player and current assistant coach Popeye Jones will be joining a team which has had 12 players selected by the NHL in the past two drafts, including four in the first round. That said, Portland likely won't be as strong next season as it has been this season.
Jones, who had considered the University of North Dakota but didn't commit to the program, is the second member of the U.S. under-18 team to opt to play major junior during his draft season. Forward Ryan Hartman signed with the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers last Monday. (It might be a credit to Jones that he didn't formally commit while he had his options open.)
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Jones' decision, in regards to junior hockey, was a landmark choice for the season given his potential. Many NHL scouts and pundits have projected Jones to either be the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.
At 6-3, 205 pounds, the 17-year-old Jones has shown in various USHL games and international competitions why he's so coveted. His smooth skating stride, ability to deliver a heavy check, his crisp passing and powerful slapshot are the qualities he has become known for.
He scored 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in 20 games for the NTDP's U-18 team which had a light USHL schedule compared to other teams which play 60 games. The NTDP's U-18 team faces a schedule comprised of international competition, college exhibition games and the USHL regular season. (Slightly Chilled)
(Stick tap: Future Considerations.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.