Seth Jones and Phil Housley on CCM/USA Hockey Prospects

On Saturday Sept. 29, I sat down with Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks at the, First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY.

BRIAN MCCORMACK: What do you expect to do this year in the draft season?

SETH JONES: “The tournament’s in Russia this year and hopefully I can make the team. We need a better outing than last year. Seventh place is not acceptable for the U.S., but hopefully I can create offense for the team and stay hard in the defensive zone against some of the better European teams and Team Canada.”

MCCORMACK: What are the toughest adjustments moving to the Western Hockey League?

JONES: “Probably the speed’s a bit quicker. You have to move the puck a little quicker than in the [United States Hockey League]. Players are bigger and stronger; it’s a bit harder to score and create chances for yourself, but I think I’m kind of getting used to it in the second weekend of the season. Last night I thought I moved the puck and jumped into the play and got it back and created a little more offense for the team so I thought that was good.”

MCCORMACK: What do you think about the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game?

JONES: “I think it’s great. We’re very thankful that Buffalo and the Sabres could do this for us. I’m very excited to play with the top 40 players in the country for this year’s draft. I think it’s going to be a real fun game. Obviously it’s going to be really competitive and I’m looking to win.”

MCCORMACK: How did you make the decision to follow a career in hockey instead of college?

JONES: “I weighed the two options heavily for a year and a half, two years. They’re two completely different routes. I’m not neglecting the fact that I still need to do some schoolwork, and that’s what I’m doing in Portland right now. But you get more games and we work out everyday when we’re not playing in Portland. So it’s different. North Dakota’s a great place and it’s where I probably would’ve went if I went the college route. I mean, Jonathan Toews came out of there so it’s obviously not a bad place. But I thought for me personally Portland was a better decision.”

“Our whole family is college believers, and I’m not neglecting that I have to do schoolwork. Maybe later I can get a degree in something, but for now Portland was a better decision.”

MCCORMACK: How much attention will you pay Nate McKinnon this year?

JONES: “I’m not going really keep track of him. Everyone knows he’s going to have a great season. I mean, something would have to go wrong for him not to have a great season. I know that and everyone else knows that so I’m just looking at me right now and seeing what I can do to help my team win.”

MCCORMACK: Do you have any concerns over the future with the new collective bargaining agreement?

“Not really concerned. Just kind of looking at what I can do today in the gym, weight room, on the ice, shooting one-timers after practice, any little thing like that that I can do to get better. Whatever happens with the CBA and the lockout, it isn’t like I’m not going to play in the NHL if that happens. It’s just the way it is I guess.”

Next, I spoke to Phil Housley, head coach of Team USA World Junior Team.

PHIL HOUSLEY: “USA Hockey has done a great job of educating the coaches, the coaching is better than it’s ever been through the amateur ranks to the pro level. These kids are very fortunate. I hope this is a great venue for years to come because you want to be a part of this game. It’s a great opportunity for the kids. It’s a stepping-stone, it’s certainly not the-be all-end all. But it’s a great opportunity and you want to be a part of it. It’s nothing like what we had when I was growing up and I think if you look at the percentages of players in the NHL (from USA Hockey) from when I was starting out in the ’80s to now, it just increases every year. You can see how the development program has helped in developing kids.”

MCCORMACK: How does it feel to see players wearing the U.S. jersey?

HOUSLEY: “It’s great. Any time you get a chance to represent your country it’s a great honor, for either a player or a coach. I had the opportunity to represent my country at a number of World Championships, Canada Cups and the Olympic teams and it’s great to be a part of other guys that you’ve grown up playing the game with and get to see at these functions. It’s great to hear that the kids are honored to be a part of this game and hopefully for future years to come.”