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Pierre-Olivier Joseph of Coyotes needs to get stronger

Arizona defense prospect has height, reach, but must bulk up before coming to NHL

by Jerry Brown / Correspondent

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For most people, the idea of eating whatever you want, whenever you want, without gaining a pound is the definition of heaven on earth.

For defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph, selected by the Arizona Coyotes with the 23rd pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, it's a temporary source of frustration, but nothing that time and more frequent trips to the training table shouldn't eventually cure.

Blessed with the size (6-foot-2) and long reach that scouts crave on defense, Joseph gently tips the scales at 162 pounds; a number that stubbornly refuses to move despite working with a dedicated but dumbfounded nutritionist.

"I eat everything. I'm eating constantly," Joseph said with a bright smile and light disposition that jumps out immediately. "My nutritionist keeps telling me, 'I can't believe that nothing you're eating is sticking around.' She's kind of amazed.

But I think I just need to be patient. I'm only 17 and there is plenty of time for me to fill out and keep growing."

The Coyotes are willing to be patient with a player they see as having all the tools to enjoy a long NHL career.

Joseph isn't expecting to jump from the first round to a regular spot in the NHL, as Jakob Chychrun did last season. Arizona is set on defense for this season and happy to add a smooth, two-way defenseman to their pipeline.

"P.O. has all the talent in the world. The sky is the limit," assistant general manager Steve Sullivan said. "There are no real holes in his game. The only thing he needs is time, and we're not going to rush him.

"With the moves [the Coyotes] have made, we've hopefully solidified our defense corps for a long time. We have time for him to go back to junior and play a year or a couple of years, gain size and strength and continue on the path."

Video: Coyotes draft D Pierre-Olivier Joseph No. 23

Joseph is not projected as a big-time scorer at the NHL level; he had 39 points (six goals, 33 assists) in 62 games in his second season with Charlottetown of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

His defensive play is what attracted the Coyotes.

"As a defender, he has the range and the tenacity to stay with it until the play turns his way," director of amateur scouting Tim Bernhardt said. "Getting physically stronger is important, but he's a guy who just needs to keep moving ahead and add layers to his game as he moves forward."

Joseph is attracted to the passion and enthusiasm of Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban, but he patterns his game and approach after Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks.

"You just watch his hockey IQ; he's such an intelligent player with and without the puck and so effective on the special units," Joseph said of Vlasic. "He is quick with his feet and he moves the puck fast because he can anticipate the play."

Joseph also has a good role model to follow at home. His older brother, Mathieu, 20, was a fourth-round pick (No. 120) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 draft and hopes to crack their roster this season.

"My whole family loves sports and stresses athletics," he said. "My mom was an athlete, my dad played hockey and my brother and I were on skates by the time we were 3 and 4 years old. I tried figure skating first to get my skating down, but I wanted to play hockey pretty quickly.

"Mathieu and I talk about what we're doing each day, and we cheer for each other. We wanted to talk about both playing in the NHL one day and what that would feel like. Every day of work puts us closer."

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