Player: Pierre-Olivier Joseph
Born: July 1, 1999 (22) (Happy birthday!)
Weight: 185 lbs.
Birthplace: Laval, Quebec, Canada
Draft: 2017 1st round (23rd pick) by the Arizona Coyotes
2020-21 Statistics: 16 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P
Contract Status: Entering year three of a three-year, $3,412,500 contract; will have a cap hit of $863,333 in 2021-22. Will be RFA after 2021-22 season.
Joseph did not play in a playoff game during the six-game series against the New York Islanders. He was, however, classified as a Black Ace for the duration of the playoffs.
When reading the WAR chart, blue is good and red is bad. There is a whole lot of blue on this graphic. Joseph will look to improve on his even-strength work in his own zone, but you can’t help but be even a little bit impressed from these results.
POJ’s biggest ice time partner? Oh, it’s just Kris Letang. No surprise there. What is surprising is how quickly he went from the Baby Penguins to playing opposite of Letang.
His ice time was almost exclusively at even-strength with a wee bit of power-play and penalty-kill time as well.
Joseph’s most well-known trait may be his penchant for offense and this chart below highlights just that. He registered many more shots than most of the other black-and-gold defensemen, and was active in personally getting the puck on net.
Story of the Season
The crown jewel of the Phil Kessel trade, Joseph finally got a chance to show his worth back in January when the Penguins’ blue line was in dire need of reinforcements due to widespread injury. Racking up a primary assist in his first-ever game, the offensive pulse that was teased down on the farm would soon be on full display. Joseph finished out the month by playing in five games and registering four assists.
His impressive initial surge helped him get promoted to the top defensive pair to form the Quebecers alongside Kris Letang. Any mid-nineties WWF fans out there? That reference was for you.
Unfortunately for Joseph, he began to hit a bit of a rookie wall and saw his ice time decline as a result. In the 11 games he participated in throughout February, Joseph scored his first NHL goal. That was only other time his name was featured on the scoresheet. By March 6, Joseph was reassigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
16 games isn’t a whole heck of a lot to go off of, but if his 2021 season is any indication, “P.O Joe” probably doesn’t need anymore seasoning in the AHL.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of seven defensemen on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 230 minutes.
Corsi For %: 51.14 (3rd)
Goals For %: 50.00 (6th)
xGF %: 45.87 (7th)
Scoring Chance %: 49.30 (6th)
High Danger Scoring Chance %: 41.30 (7th)
5v5 on-ice shooting %: 6.77 (7th)
On-ice save %: 92.04 (5th)
—A bit of a mixed bag here in Joseph’s debut season, but these totals are skewed due to his limited ice time. Joseph finished last in TOI, only logging 245:57. Kris Letang, on the other hand, was on the ice for almost 1,033 minutes. An ageless wonder his fellow Frenchman is.
Not all is lost though. Joseph was a positive possession player with his solid Corsi For percentage. Based on all this data, it seems likely that he would improve on these limited sample sizes should he play an 82-game season in 2021-22.
How about that boom-boom play from Jake Guentzel to Joseph, who, as Bob Errey mentioned, was responsible for starting and joining the rush that leads to the goal being scored. A quality first snipe that beats Semyon Varlamov high glove side.
Three assists for Joseph in this January 30 contest against the New York Rangers. And all assists from the defender came while inside the offensive zone. Joseph’s get-it-to-the-net mentality was evident on goals one and two. Add in a little game of back-and-forth with the Penguins’ captain on the game-winning goal and you have yourself a recipe for a triple-apple pie.
Joseph gave both the front office and fans a reason to be excited about a young Penguins player while both Samuel Poulin and Nathan Légaré finish up their junior careers and transition into the AHL. Those two may still be a ways away from making their NHL debuts, but for the smooth-skating, offensive-minded Quebec blueliner, he provided a delicious appetizer ahead of the main course.
It’s time for Joseph to graduate into a full-time NHLer. Having him waste away in the AHL while on a very team-friendly deal does absolutely nothing for the Penguins. And while he may be prone to making more mistakes at the young age of 22, the positives outweigh the negatives when trying to construct the most effective defensive unit on a tight budget.
The team have made it no secret that they would like to change their roster heading into next season. Jettisoning the contract of another left-handed defenseman, more specifically, Mike Matheson or Marcus Pettersson, opens up a spot for Joseph and gives the Penguins more cap space to address other pressing needs.
Question to Ponder
Does Joseph begin next season with the NHL Penguins? And if so, does he immediately get put into a top-four role, presumably behind Brian Dumoulin on the left side of the defensive depth chart?
How would you grade Pierre-Olivier Joseph’s 2020-21 season?
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