P.E.I. Pierre Olivier (P.O.) Joseph has witnessed the excitement of a world junior hockey tournament. Now he wants to experience the heavily followed event first-hand.
The Charlottetown Islanders captain attended the tournament with his parents two years ago to watch his older brother Mathieu play for Canada when the championship was in Toronto. Joseph was able to watch a couple of the early games during the Christmas break before returning to the Islanders.
“It was pretty special, being a fan and cheering for him,” Joseph said.
Now the defenceman has a chance to wear the Maple Leaf at this year’s competition in Vancouver from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
The trip two years ago has given Joseph a sense of the atmosphere that surrounds the tournament, which has become a family tradition to watch in many households across the country.
“Being in the stands and being on the ice are totally two different things,” Joseph said. “Just the energy that the crowd was giving (the team), it was just something special and I want to feel that for sure.”
Joseph is one of 34 players from across the country who left Monday for Victoria, B.C., to take part in the Sport Chek selection camp, which runs from Tuesday to Friday. The roster includes three goalies, 19 forwards and 12 defencemen.
Being invited to the camp is only a step along the journey that Joseph hopes results in the boy born on Canada Day in 1999 playing for his country. Twelve players will be cut to get down to the final 22-player roster.
“Nothing is done, and I still have a lot to do. I can’t wait to go there and play some hockey,” the personable 19-year-old Chambly, Que., native said Sunday outside the Islanders dressing room. “Obviously, there’s a lot, a lot, a lot of great players out there. That’s why it’s the best under-20 (tournament). It’s going to be a fun battle.”
His brother, in the midst of a strong NHL rookie campaign with the Tampa Bay Lightning after a four-year junior career with the Saint John Sea Dogs, has told him to play his game as it is the only thing he has control over.
“This is exactly what I’m going to do, just go there and prove who I am,” the younger Joseph said.
Joseph is ready to accept whatever tasks the coaching staff, which includes Islanders head coach Jim Hulton as an assistant coach, designs for him.
“I know you’re going to have a different role, seeing all the other great players out there. No matter what your role is, you just have to respect it and play 100 per cent.”
Joseph played in a milestone game Sunday, suiting up for his 200th contest as an Islander in a 2-1 loss to Halifax. Fans at the Eastlink Centre applauded as the achievement and his Team Canada involvement was announced during the second period of the game.
“I owe everything to this organization,” Joseph smiled. “I love this place. It’s home now.”
But he also understands the business of the sport and the possibility he could be moved during the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League trade period, which runs from Dec. 16-Jan. 6. Players participating in Hockey Canada events are unable to be moved until after the tournaments.
Joseph is unsure what will happen.
“I’m a player, so I’m not in the conversation at all,” he said. “I’m just trying to be here and enjoy everything with the guys and (not) think about that. Just go on the ice, compete and if something happens, something happens.”
The Islanders have proven during the past month they can compete and beat some of the league’s best. Team officials have said the club would consider both moving players or adding pieces during the trade period but doesn’t have the assets to be overly aggressive like it did two years ago.
Joseph was asked Sunday if he felt the team was capable of winning without adding big pieces for the stretch run.
“I feel like we always surprise everyone, so why not do it once again?” he said. “The core in this group, the chemistry here is just crazy.”
Need to know
A look at Pierre-Olivier (P.O.) Joseph
Who – The Charlottetown Islanders captain.
Height, weight, position – Joseph is a six-foot-two, 168-pound left-shot defenceman.
Acquired – The Islanders drafted Joseph in the fifth round (78th overall) of the 2015 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft.
NHL – The Arizona Coyotes selected Joseph in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2017 NHL draft.
The latest – Joseph left Monday for Victoria, B.C., where he will try to crack Team Canada’s roster for the world junior championship.
Family connection – Joseph’s older brother, Mathieu, played in the tournament two years ago in Toronto. Canada, which included the likes of Thomas Chabot, Dylan Strome and Mathew Barzal, lost 5-4 to the Americans in a shootout in the gold medal game. Islanders trainer Kevin Elliott was a part of the national team that year.
Pre-tournament games – Canada will play a U Sports all-star team Dec. 12-14.
Season GP G A Pts.
2015-16 48 1 7 8
2016-17 62 6 33 39
2017-18 63 13 33 46
2018-19 27 7 18 25
Career 200 27 91 118
Battle on the back end
A look at the defencemen at Team Canada’s selection camp.
Player Team (league) Birthyear Shoots
Calen Addison Lethbridge (WHL) 2000 Right
Nicolas Beaudin Drummondville (QMJHL) 1999 Left
Jacob Bernard-Docker University of North Dakota (NCHC) 2000 Right
Evan Bouchard London (OHL) 1999 Right
Josh Brook Moose Jaw (WHL) 1999 Right
Cameron Crotty Boston University (HE) 1999 Right
Noah Dobson Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL) 2000 Right
Pierre-Olivier Joseph Charlottetown (QMJHL) 1999 Left
Jared McIsaac Halifax (QMJHL) 2000 Left
Ian Mitchell University of Denver (NCHC) 1999 Right
Markus Phillips Owen Sound (OHL) 1999 Left
Ty Smith Spokane (WHL) 2000 Left
Source: The Guardian