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Hishon Drawing Attention

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
During the Owen Sound Attack’s 2-1 loss to the London Knights this past Wednesday, forward Joey Hishon had to fend off a London defensive attack that included a player shadowing him during each and every shift he played.

It’s not the first time that’s happened to the Avalanche prospect this season, and it certainly won’t be the last if he continues to play the way he has. Colorado’s first-round selection (17th overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has been tearing up the Ontario Hockey League in 2010-11, averaging exactly two points-per-game, with 42 points (17g/25a) in 21 contests.

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“It’s something that has happened a few times this year and something I’ve learned to play with a little bit. It’s definitely a lot tougher to play,” Hishon said of the shadowing strategy. “With that said, it definitely makes me bear down and focus even harder when there’s a guy on me like that. That’s something I’m going to have to start getting used to if I’m going to keep putting up the numbers like I have this year.”

Even with an opposing player essentially attached to his hip the entire game, Hishon still managed to earn an assist on Owen Sound’s lone goal. That’s about as close as any team has come to shutting down the center this season.

Hishon currently carries a 13-game point streak (7g/19a) and has been held without a point in just two contests this season. His 42 points place him 10th in the OHL’s scoring race, and he’s also among the league’s leaders in goals (tie-18th) and assists (tie-9th). What’s even more impressive is that the Stratford, Ontario native ranks among the league’s top scorers despite missing eight games early in the season.

Hishon suffered a wrist injury before he came to Colorado’s rookie orientation camp this summer, but tried to play through it while he was in Denver. When he couldn’t manage to play at his highest level, he was reassigned to Owen Sound.

After a few days of rest back with his junior club, Hishon returned to the Attack’s lineup and played a few games before a decision was made to shut him down briefly and let the injury heal 100 percent. Since then, he’s been nothing short of spectacular on the ice.

Hishon has helped lead Owen Sound to a Midwest Division-best 19-8-0-2 record (40 points) a year after the team finished the 2009-10 campaign with the second-worst record in the Western Conference (27-33-4-4; 62 points). The Attack also sits at No. 8 in the Canadian Hockey League’s BMO CHL MasterCard Top 10 Rankings, which is voted on by a panel of NHL scouts. The Attack has been in the top-10 in that poll for nine consecutive weeks.

The team's success has led to a completely different atmosphere in Owen Sound’s locker room.

“We brought in a new defensive coach, Terry Virtue. He and Mark Reeds paired up together have been unbelievable,” said Hishon. “I also think our leadership this year has been great. We had a complete change in all of our C’s and A’s. They’ve been doing a good job of keeping the room close together. There are no real superstars on this team, so everyone is working really hard and it looks like things are working out for us.”

While some might fight that last point – and argue that Hishon himself can be considered a superstar at the OHL level based on his play this season – the 5-foot-10, 170-pound forward deflects the praise and claims he’s simply playing up to his ability after suffering through an injury-plagued 2009-10 campaign.

Limited to just 36 games a season ago due to two separate injuries (foot/knee), Hishon says that this season is night-and-day different because he’s stayed healthy after the minor early-season wrist injury.

“Last year I didn’t have a very good year with injuries, but that’s all in the past now. I’m 100 percent healthy and feeling great. It’s completely different than last year and a huge change for the positive.”

Hishon has not only been drawing the attention of opposing defenses on the ice, but he’s also caught the collective eye of Hockey Canada. Last week, he was one of 39 players invited to Team Canada’s National Junior Team selection camp. The event will be held from Dec. 12-15, and will be the players’ final chance to make an impression on the Hockey Canada brass prior to the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.

“That tournament is obviously a huge, huge deal in Canada,” said Hishon. “It was a goal of mine since the start of the year and it’s definitely very exciting. Anytime you get an opportunity to go to a Team Canada event it’s a huge honor. To play on that team would be a dream come true and I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

Considering the focus and determination Hishon has shown when faced with adversity over the past few years, it would be hard to bet against him reaching that goal.
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