Jones named NHL’s No. 1 North American draft prospect

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Seth Jones has started off 2013 with a bang.

Just weeks removed from capturing gold with Team USA at the World Junior Championships, the highly-coveted defenseman was named NHL Central Scouting’s top North American prospect on Tuesday.

“Seth is a big, rangy defenseman who has a nice command of his shifts,” NHL Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. “He has the ability to be a game-changer because he has good instincts and awareness. He’s an underrated passer, possesses solid one-on-one play and can skate the puck out of danger at any time.

“He’s already the complete package, but I get the feeling he still has another gear to go to.”

Jones edged out another pair of touted prospects — Canadian forwards and QMJHL Halifax teammates Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin — and was one of just three defensemen to crack the top-10 (the others were Brandon blueliner Ryan Pulock and Sault Ste. Marie’s Darnell Nurse.)

Finnish scoring sensation Aleksander Barkov was named the top international skater, with Swedish center Elias Lindholm finishing second. Valeri Nichushkin, the prized Russian forward, finished fourth.

The 2013 NHL Entry Draft will be held on June 30 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

Jones will look to become just the third U.S.-born defenseman in history to go first overall — the others were Erik Johnson and Bryan Berard — and this year’s draft will have an added wrinkle, as the NHL implements its new draft lottery process.