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Joseph hoping heavier frame will lead to future Coyotes roster spot

Arizona will be patient with defenseman prospect, who will play fourth season in QMJHL

by Craig Morgan / NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Pierre-Olivier Joseph and the Arizona Coyotes are not worried whether the 19-year-old defenseman prospect has too much on his plate, but wonder when those heaping helpings will pay off on the scale.

Joseph, selected by the Coyotes with the No. 23 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, weighed 168 at Arizona's development camp last month, despite a year-long effort to beef up playing for Charlottetown of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

"We had a running joke that every time we did a video meeting he'd have three or four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in his hand," Charlottetown coach and general manager Jim Hulton said. "Every time I looked, this kid was eating."

 

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Joseph, who stands 6-foot-2, lived with the team's nutritionist, who prepared meals. He also worked with Charlottetown athletic therapist Kevin Elliott to add bulk. 

The outcome?

"I'll say two pounds," Joseph said, laughing. 

The Coyotes believe there is plenty of time for Joseph's frame to fill out. The plan is for him to return to Charlottetown this season and possibly turn pro the following year. 

"We're going to be patient with him," Arizona general manager John Chayka said. "It will take as long as it takes, but once he's physically developed, we see a high upside for him. He's taken steps exactly as we'd hoped, and we're really happy with that pick."

Joseph had 46 points (13 goals, 33 assists) in 63 games last season, his third for Charlottetown, and added 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 18 playoff games.

Joseph is not the only one in his family who has struggled to gain weight; his older brother, Mathieu, went through the same thing during his late teens, but now weighs 183 pounds. Mathieu, 21, had 53 points (15 goals, 38 assists) in 70 games last season for Syracuse of the American Hockey League, the Tampa Bay Lightning's affiliate. Mathieu Joseph was chosen by the Lightning in the fourth round (No. 120) of the 2015 draft.

Hulton said he saw progress in multiple areas of Pierre-Olivier Joseph's game.

"The most obvious thing was his shot, which became a valuable weapon," Hulton said. "He's still growing into his offense. I think there's another layer he can add, but we saw a new dimension this year in terms of him joining the rush and being way more confident coming from behind. That's what gets everybody excited is his ability to read the play and join the rush because that's the modern-day defenseman."

Joseph has taken notes from his past two development camps, among them the importance of stick and body positioning in the defensive zone, and the need to pounce on pucks.

"The guys are really fast here and you have to move your feet," he said. "I had the chance to work with the skating coach back in Charlottetown. That's what we were working on a lot, just quick feet and how to retrieve the puck as fast as possible because these guys are coming hard.

"I think I had a pretty good season, but I owe a lot to the people around me. To have the support of the people here at the top, as well, it's been unbelievable. I think I'm going in the right direction."

Photos courtesy of Arizona Coyotes

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