David Poile, general manager for the Nashville Predators and U.S. Olympic Men's Hockey Team, told Sportsnet's Darren Millard his staff has narrowed down the pool of candidates to make Team USA's defensive corps to 12 players. Poile also confirmed one of those 12 players is Nashville's star rookie blueliner Seth Jones.
That's a pretty lofty accomplishment for the 19-year-old.
Team USA is likely to take eight defensemen as part of the 25-man roster it can bring to Sochi. That means there will be four players from this group cut out before the roster is announced at the Winter Classic on Jan. 1.
The U.S. invited 18 defensemen to its Olympic orientation camp this summer, so at least six of those players are out of the mix already. It could be more if someone not invited to camp entered the race. Jones was one of the 18 in attendance.
Jones, who Nashville selected with the fourth overall pick at the 2013 NHL Draft, is averaging more 24:04 a night for the Predators, by far tops among all rookies and 27th among all players in the league. He has been thrust into a featured role despite his age and inexperience and has thrived.
The Texas native has eight points including a pair of goals in 20 games so far this season.
Pretty much all of Jones' competition is going to include multi-year veterans of the NHL. There are few locks for Team USA's defensive group, which means there's still quite a lot of competition to be had.
Narrowing the list down allows Team USA's management team, which also includes Penguins general manager Ray Shero and Calgary Flames president Brian Burke, among other NHL general managers, to focus in on their evaluations.
Team USA's defense isn't necessarily a star-studded group, so the final decisions won't be easy and obviously won't be made without intense examination. The fact that Jones has made it to this point is an incredible boost to the young player, but as he's shown so far this year, he deserves the opportunity in front of him.