CORNWALL, P.E.I. – The Charlottetown Islanders highest drafted player ever is in Arizona.
Pierre-Olivier (PO) Joseph left Thursday for the desert where he will take part in a skating camp with the Arizona Coyotes before their rookie camp begins.
“It’s always exciting to go and try something new,” Joseph said after the Islanders pre-season game Wednesday in Cornwall. “The other level is something we've been training for forever.”
While happy to be heading to Arizona, the Coyotes first-round pick (23rd overall) said it was fun being back on the Island before heading west.
“I was happy to come here and meet the boys,” he said. “It’s going to be a pretty young team (with) a lot of new faces.”
The mobile defenceman, who was the Coyotes first-round pick, said he is not putting any pressure on himself.
“I was nervous when I first came (to Charlottetown),” he recalled, “but I think you just need to go there without expectations – just go there and have fun.”
The young man with the big smile quickly became a favourite with his teammates and the fans after joining the Islanders in November 2015.
While only here for a short time this trip, his presence was felt throughout the squad.
“He’s a great example to have on so many fronts,” head coach Jim Hulton said. “The fact he led our fitness testing just shows his leadership is at another level. He’s the 23rd pick overall in the world (yet) he didn't rest on his laurels. He trained hard all summer. That’s a great example for our existing core, let alone our younger players coming in.”
He’s also a very welcoming player to the young athletes and has helped the youthful francophone players with the language barrier.
Joseph said he is going to try his best in Arizona and hopes to make the Coyotes main camp.
“It would be pretty special to go there after rookie camp,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to go there.”
While most players don't make their NHL team the year they are drafted, it does happen. Islanders fans don’t have to look too far back to recall Daniel Sprong making the Pittsburgh Penguins opening night roster as an 18-year-old after being a second-round pick.
Hulton said there are no guarantees with the six-foot-three, 165-pound Joseph.
“The one thing PO has to work on is his body and that takes time,” the head coach said. “He’s also overcome a lot of circumstances in the past, so I wouldn't put anything beyond him. It all depends on how his camp goes and then you can’t forecast injuries to the big club.
“Given . . . what we lived through with Daniel two years ago, I don't think anything is a given.”
The Islanders open the regular season on Sept. 22 at home against the Moncton Wildcats. Junior teams are often missing players, who are attending pro camps, for their first few games of the season.
Need to know
Pierre-Olivier (PO) Joseph
Who – A Charlottetown Islanders defenceman who was drafted by the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes in June’s draft. The Islanders selected him in the fifth round (78th overall) in 2015 while the Coyotes used the 23rd pick in the first round to select him this spring.
The latest – Joseph left the Islanders training camp on Thursday to train with the Coyotes and then attend the team’s rookie camp.
Hometown – Chambly, Que.
Age – 18.
Size – Six-foot-three, 165 pounds.
Season GP G A Pts.
2016-17 62 6 33 39
2015-16 48 1 7 8