Every once in a while, you have to find a diamond in the rough. From Tyler Johnson to Chris Kunitz and of course Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames, there are plenty of examples around the league of impact players discovered in less conventional ways. Finding a player like that can be a huge bonus to an organization, kind of like finding a $100 bill on the ground. In more recent times, that example in Calgary is Josh Jooris.
Jooris has been nothing short of a revelation for the Flames this season, and as we all know, it came totally out of nowhere. With three years in the book at Union College, Jooris was invited to Calgary’s summer development camp in July of 2013. His performance there earned him a contract offer, and Jooris opted to forego his senior year to sign his first ever pro contract.
It wasn’t as if Jooris burst onto the scene like a house on fire, either. His first professional season was rather pedestrian, putting up 11 goals and 27 points in 73 American Hockey League games. However, his second NHL training camp was a different story.
Head coach Bob Hartley fondly tells the story of how Jooris was only supposed to get into one preseason game before being sent to Adirondack. But one exhibition game turned into two and all of a sudden Jooris was one of the most talked about players in the preseason. Despite starting this year in the minors, it didn’t take long for his recall to come. Since that time, Jooris has done nothing but excel.
Now with 39 NHL games under his belt, Jooris is one of six Flames players with double-digit goals. His ten goals this season are impressive, but it’s another number that’s more noteworthy. On a team with names like Hudler, Gaudreau, and more, it’s Jooris who is tied for the team lead with four game-winning goals. Even for someone who thought he might be ready to play at the highest level, I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
The way Jooris plays fits perfectly with how the Flames play. He’s a relentless forechecker, he plays with high pace, and you know what to expect each and every shift. No wonder Hartley is such a fan. Plus, Jooris has shown an ability to be versatile, playing down the middle and on the wing. Hartley can use him up and down the depth chart, and has throughout the season.
From a more advanced perspective, Jooris is hitting it out of the park as well. His Corsi rate of -5.95 is fourth best among Flames forwards, and it’s not as if Hartley has sheltered him either. With an offensive zone start of 50.3%, he’s not seeing slanted offensive starts, but he’s still spending more time in the offensive zone than most players on the team. There’s a value in that for any player, but it’s especially impressive when talking about a rookie.
Granted, part of Jooris’s success has come from playing with Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau for a good chunk of the season. Calgary’s dynamic duo would buoy most players they skate with, so that does partially explain Jooris’s impressive Corsi rating. But it doesn’t fully explain it. He’s played well with whoever has been on his line, and right now Jooris is proving he’s an effective NHL player, period.
Sometimes as an organization, you have to swing at something outside and see what happens. In recent memory, Calgary has tried doing just that with players like David Eddy, Brady Lamb, and Roman Cervenka. Those didn’t end up working out, but it’s not like the team lost anything by stepping up and giving it a shot with them. Had Jooris not panned out, it would have been the same thing: low risk, no consequence.
In this case, however, they got it right, the same way they did a decade ago with Giordano. Now, it’s not fair to expect Jooris to turn into the same impact player as Giordano, because that would be unrealistic with anybody. But the way things look right now, it appears the Flames have got themselves a solid, reliable, effective NHLer. The fact they found him when no one else did? Well, that’s just a bonus. Kind of like found money.