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The unique path to the NHL for Pierre-Olivier Joseph

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2020 and 2021 have shaped Joseph’s journey to the brink of the NHL in a very unique way

Every player who makes it up the ranks to the NHL has a unique story to tell about the twists and turns of their journey. For young Pierre-Olivier Joseph, he finds himself on the precipice of making it to the top level of hockey at age 21 in quite the career path. The events in the past 10 months or so has put him in a situation unlike many others.

Let’s take a look at his career so far with some key dates and moments:

June 2017: Ranked the 27th North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, Joseph is selected 23rd overall by the Arizona Coyotes a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday.

December 2017: Joseph signs a three-year entry level contract with Arizona, which slides until the start of his professional career. (He’s currently on year two of that contract, which expires after the 2021-22 season).

December 2018: Joseph is a cut from Team Canada for the World Junior Championship and is traded in the QMJHL from Charlottetown to Drummondville.

June 29, 2019: Joseph’s NHL rights are transferred from Arizona to the Penguins in a trade. Perhaps you’ve heard of it:

September 2019: Joseph is in Pens’ camp for the 2019-20 season. He makes it to the second cut and is assigned to Wilkes-Barre of the AHL.

October 2019: Joseph begins his pro career with Wilkes-Barre. Shortly after the season starts, he fights a case of mono and is zapped of some weight and strength.

March 2020: Just as Joseph is finding his footing in his age-20 season in the AHL (2G+6A in his last 13 games of the season, compared to 1G+8A in the first 39 games) the AHL season is paused, then canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. By the end of the season, Joseph was a staple for WB/S, playing on the top pair and in all situations on the ice.

July 2020: Joseph participates in the Phase 3 training camp with the Penguins for the 2020 return to play (aka the bubble hockey playoff in Toronto). He makes the extended team and gets to join his older brother, Tampa forward Mathieu Joseph in the bubble.

December 2020: Joseph again is in camp with the Penguins for the 2020-21 season and is the only defenseman named to the practice squad for the beginning of the season. This is also partially aided by a surgery that knocked Zach Trotman out for the start of the year. Joseph is also by far the youngest member of the team.

January 2021: After just four games, the Pens suffer three injuries to left handed defensemen with Mike Matheson going to IR, and Marcus Pettersson and Juuso Riikola’s current statuses remaining unknown.

Quite the journey for a player who still could be college-aged and playing in the NCAA if he took that career path. Instead he starts his second pro season a veteran of just 52 AHL regular season games. He showed a lot of growth and impressed Pens’ brass and coaches along the way, enabling him to climb the organizational ladder, despite not having a ton of opportunities to get ice time like he would in a more normal year, say had he come along a few years prior.

Depending on what happens at Penguins practice this morning as to the availability (or lack thereof) for Pettersson and/or Riikola, the next key date for Pierre-Olivier Joseph’s budding career could well be January 22nd, 2021. That’s the date of the Pens’ next game, at home against the Rangers. It could well mark the NHL debut of one of their most promising youngsters.