Pierre-Olivier Joseph helping Islanders on and off the ice

Jason Malloy
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Pierre-Olivier Joseph is a 16-year-old who enjoys playing hockey.

It shows.

The Charlottetown Islanders rookie defencemen can often be seen around the Eastlink Centre with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step.

"You need to have fun on the ice and (off) the ice," Joseph said after Wednesday's practice.

It's genuine and natural.

"This kid has a special energy and aura about him," head coach Jim Hulton said. "He has this positive, upbeat air about him . . . It's infectious. It rubs off on the rest of us and you see him and can't help but smile."

The Islanders selected the left-shot defenceman in the fifth round (78 overall) of June's draft.

Hulton said he was a pleasant surprise in training camp.

"Right from Day 1 he kind of had all the attributes that so-called modern defencemen have to have," he said.

"He's very, very mobile, plays the game with his head up; he makes great puck decisions - not only to read who's open, but also have the skill to find them."

The Islanders questioned if the six-foot, 150-pound Joseph was ready physically for the rigours of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

They sent him back to Antoine-Girouard in Quebec to start the season in midget. They brought him up for a game when they played in Drummondville and recalled him full time in early November.

"His hockey sense and his savvy on the ice have allowed him to avoid any major confrontations," Hulton said.

Despite the age, the head coach said, Joseph has a leadership role on the team with others gravitating towards the youngster.

He has recently been paired with Will Thompson on the blue-line, and Hulton sees it benefiting both players.

Joseph will see a familiar face tonight when his brother, right-winger Mathieu Joseph, a Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, and his Saint John Sea Dogs teammates come to town for a 7 p.m. contest.

"It's special to play against him for sure, but we don't need to change our game plan or our style," said Pierre-Olivier, who has a goal and four assists in 27 games this season.

The rookie credited Islanders assistant captain Oliver Cooper, who played with Mathieu in Saint John, for helping him transition to the Islanders and Charlottetown.

Defenceman Dexer Weber remains out with an upper body injury while Jonathan Duchesne and Nicolas Leblond are both dealing with injuries but skated Wednesday and their status will be determined today.

Organizations: Islanders, Eastlink Centre, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Tampa Bay Lightning

Geographic location: Quebec, Drummondville, Saint John Charlottetown

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