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Seth Jones leads mid-season scouting rankings

TORONTO — Unlike some previous seasons, there is definitely no clear favourite to go first overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

The Central Scouting Bureau released its mid-season rankings Tuesday, with Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones taking the nod as the top draft-eligible skater from North America. He was closely followed by Halifax Mooseheads forward Nathan MacKinnon.

Given that both players are standouts at their respective positions, the team holding the No. 1 pick will likely make their selection based on positional need rather than drafting the best available player.

“It was just by a slim margin that Seth is sitting (ahead) in the first ranking right now,” Central Scouting director Dan Marr said.

Jones, from Arlington, Texas, came up through the U.S. National Team Development Program and has blossomed in the Western Hockey League, leading all rookie WHL blue-liners with 28 points in 33 games.

The son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, the six-foot-three, 208-pounder has eight goals, 20 assists and a plus-29 rating with the Winterhawks. Jones also guided the American team to a gold medal at the recent world junior hockey championship.

“The fact that he’s living up to his expectation, that really sits well with a lot of scouts,” Marr said.

Jones is aiming to be just the third American-born defenceman to be drafted first overall after Bryan Berard in 1995 and Erik Johnson in 2006.

Centre Aleksander Barkov of Tampere, Finland was the top-rated European-based player. He has 31 points (14-17) in 35 games for Tappara in Finland’s top league.

MacKinnon, from Halifax, leads his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team in scoring with 55 points (23-32) in 32 games.



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