Pleas­ant sur­prise

Pierre-Olivier Joseph help­ing Is­lan­ders on and off the ice

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY JA­SON MAL­LOY

Char­lot­te­town Is­lan­ders de­fence­man Pier­reOlivier Joseph ex­udes pos­i­tive en­ergy.

Pierre-Olivier Joseph is a 16year-old who en­joys play­ing hockey. It shows. The Char­lot­te­town Is­lan­ders rookie de­fence­men can of­ten be seen around the Eastlink Cen­tre with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step.

“You need to have fun on the ice and (off ) the ice,” Joseph said af­ter Wed­nes­day’s prac­tice. It’s gen­uine and nat­u­ral. “This kid has a spe­cial en­ergy and aura about him,” head coach Jim Hulton said. “He has this pos­i­tive, up­beat air about him . . . It’s in­fec­tious. It rubs off on the rest of us and you see him and can’t help but smile.”

The Is­lan­ders se­lected the left-shot de­fence­man in the fifth round (78 over­all) of June’s draft.

Hulton said he was a pleas­ant sur­prise in train­ing camp.

“Right from Day 1 he kind of had all the at­tributes that so­called mod­ern de­fence­men have to have,” he said.

“He’s very, very mo­bile, plays the game with his head up; he makes great puck de­ci­sions not only to read who’s open, but also have the skill to find them.”

The Is­lan­ders ques­tioned if the six-foot, 150-pound Joseph was ready phys­i­cally for the rigours of the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League.

They sent him back to An­toine-Girouard in Que­bec to start the sea­son in midget. They brought him up for a game when they played in Drum­mondville and re­called him full time in early Novem­ber.

“His hockey sense and his savvy on the ice have al­lowed him to avoid any ma­jor con­fronta­tions,” Hulton said.

De­spite the age, the head coach said, Joseph has a lead­er­ship role on the team with oth­ers grav­i­tat­ing to­wards the young­ster.

He has re­cently been paired with Will Thomp­son on the blue-line, and Hulton sees it ben­e­fit­ing both play­ers.

Joseph will see a fa­mil­iar face tonight when his brother, rightwinger Mathieu Joseph, a Tampa Bay Light­ning draft pick, and his Saint John Sea Dogs team­mates come to town for a 7 p.m. con­test.

“It’s spe­cial to play against him for sure, but we don’t need to change our game plan or our style,” said Pierre-Olivier, who has a goal and four as­sists in 27 games this sea­son.

The rookie cred­ited Is­lan­ders as­sis­tant cap­tain Oliver Cooper, who played with Mathieu in Saint John, for help­ing him tran­si­tion to the Is­lan­ders and Char­lot­te­town.

De­fence­man Dexer We­ber re­mains out with an up­per body in­jury while Jonathan Duch­esne and Ni­co­las Le­blond are both deal­ing with in­juries but skated Wed­nes­day and their sta­tus will be de­ter­mined to­day.

JA­SON MAL­LOY/THE GUARDIAN

Char­lot­te­town Is­lan­ders de­fence­man Pierre-Olivier Joseph has made a big im­pres­sion on his team­mates and the team’s coach­ing staff this sea­son.

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