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Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: #2 - Pierre-Olivier Joseph

Growing up before our eyes, Joseph has arrived as an NHL player

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

For the third year in a row, and in his final year of eligibility for this countdown, Pierre-Olivier Joseph checks in at the number two spot in the annual Top 25 Under 25 listing of the top young players right now in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.

2023 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Daniel Laatsch
#24: Cooper Foster
#23: Thimo Nickl
#22: Dillon Hamaliuk
#21 Mikhail Ilyin
#20: Jack St. Ivany
#19: Chase Yoder
#18: Emil Jarventie
#17: Nolan Collins
#16: Raivis Ansons
#15: Ty Glover
#14: Taylor Gauthier
#13: Isaac Belliveau
#12: Lukas Svejkovsky
#11: Tristan Broz
#10: Sergei Murashov
#9: Emil Pieniniemi
#8: Sam Poulin
#7: Jonathan Gruden
#6: Joel Blomqvist
#5: Valtteri Puustinen
#4: Ty Smith
#3: Owen Pickering

#2: Pierre-Olivier Joseph, LHD

2022 Ranking: No. 2

Age: 24 (July 1, 1999)

Height/Weight: 6’2”/185 lbs.

Acquired Via: Trade with Arizona Coyotes (2019)

Elite Prospects Resume

Joseph was not drafted by the Penguins but has grown and developed over the past four years within the Pittsburgh organization into a full-time NHL player just the same, as one of the organization’s few former young first round picks coming through the ranks these days.

Individually, 2022-23 was quite the year for Joseph - he played well enough in training camp that the Pens did not want to waive him and was a regular player for them in 75 out of the 82 regular season games. Though the NHL season didn’t end the way anyone in Pittsburgh wanted it to, Joseph got the opportunity to represent his country for the first time at a major level and by the time he stopped playing, he was a World Champion at the IIHF’s annual tournament after Team Canada’s victory.

Even though his NHL career was soft-launched with 20 total games in prior years, Joseph still counted officially as a rookie in 2022-23. He ended up with the following results among newcomers in the league on the blueline:

  • Goals: tied-2nd
  • Assists: 4th
  • Points: 4th
  • Plus/Minus: 4th
  • Shots: 4th
  • TOI (min 25 games): 16th

Joseph ended up finishing 13th overall in Calder voting for rookie of the year. That sounds nice enough until realizing is means picking up one single fifth place vote, but recognition is recognition. He also ended up on the NHL’s third All-Rookie team with a nice nod for his season.

As highlighted in his 2022-23 Pensburgh Season in Review, Joseph had a year that stood out with impressive offensive impacts, but had some typical rookie moments in his own end leading to poor defensive impact, and overall earned a fair grade of a B from the majority readers of this website.

There were questions 12 or 24 months ago about when or if Joseph would be able to crack the NHL lineup, and questions were answered over the last year with him looking the part of an NHL regular in his draft+6 season.

Joseph is a magnificent skater that can cover a lot of ice with his smooth stride and seemingly effortless transitions. He utilizes those talents to advance the puck and jump up in the play. He doesn’t and never has truly had the elite ability to lead power plays or create a ton of offense, though he certainly isn’t out of place getting some mop up time there and is able to get the puck on net a fair amount from his position.

What comes next might be working and absorbing with what Marcus Pettersson does defensively. Joseph and Pettersson have a very similar long and wiry frame, but have very different styles and skillsets. Pettersson is much more advanced at defending the rush, using his stick and reach to disrupt the opponents. As Joseph continues to get acclimated to the NHL, if he can grow in that area to become more well-rounded defensively, he might develop into something more than the 15-minute per game third pair role that he found himself mostly entrenched in to this point.

While 2022-23 proved to be the year Joseph arrived, life in the NHL is always a battle. Ty Smith, a fellow promising young defender, was just as good as Joseph last training (or mighty close), but the waiver situation made it palatable to keep Joseph and send Smith to the minors. That won’t be the case this year with Smith’s waiver eligibility kicking in.

GM Kyle Dubas has indicated in summer comments that he won’t be adverse to using waivers, even at the risk of potentially losing a player. Add to with Smith the presence of tryout Libor Hajek, and a veteran in Will Butcher and the Pens could have quite the battle unfold for their third pair defensive position later this month in training camp as the season begins again.

That said, Joseph’s work in 2022-23 deservedly gives him the incumbent seat in that position, however much of a toe-hold can be granted for that spot in the lineup. He was certainly good enough in his rookie year, but now as Joseph morphs from “promising young player” into just a plain old “NHL caliber player” it will be a constant battle to hold and retain a spot in the lineup, and perhaps a place on even the NHL roster in the endless cycle that NHL teams engage in to constantly use competition in the attempt to improve the squad.

For many younger players in the Top 25 Under 25 countdown, the future is far off. For Joseph, the future is undoubtedly right now. His time as a prospect is over, as will be his time in these rankings, but the journey to maintain his NHL career and attempt to find a long-lasting niche in the league has only just begun.