He’s often seen sporting an infectious grin from ear-to-ear and is one of the Canadian Hockey League’s fastest rising young defencemen.
Charlottetown Islanders 18-year-old captain Pierre-Olivier Joseph emerged out from the shadow of older brother and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Mathieu of the Saint John Sea Dogs last season, bursting onto the scene with 39 points (6-33–39) in his sophomore campaign.
Originally a fifth round pick by the Isles in 2015, Joseph’s game has taken off over the past two years as his fluid stride and 6-foot-2 frame gained the attention of the Arizona Coyotes who selected him in the first round of the NHL Draft last summer.
A player new to Hockey Canada’s radar having never represented the country on the international stage, Joseph is excited about his opportunity this week in the CIBC Canada Russia Series.
“I’ve never had that chance, but it’s a goal that I am working toward,” he said following a Team QMJHL team building outing to the curling rink on Monday. “This game is a special occasion for me and the rest of my teammates here and we want to leave everything out there and represent the QMJHL well.”
Hailing from the Montreal suburb of Chambly, QC, Joseph is a long way from home but has settled into his unique surroundings on Prince Edward Island.
The small-town feel of Charlottetown has grown on Joseph, a personable young man who enjoys a good conversation.
“It’s not something every player gets to experience,” he said of being an Islander. “It’s the kind of place where you run into fans at the grocery store and say hi or talk hockey for a few minutes. I’m grateful that this is where I ended up.”
Joseph, who credits outgoing captain Guillaume Brisebois for helping him become a better leader, has developed his game under head coach Jim Hulton in Charlottetown. Hulton has coached at a number of different levels including several seasons in the OHL prior to two as an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers.
Overseeing a young group following the departure of long-time stars Filip Chlapik (Ottawa Senators) and Daniel Sprong (Pittsburgh Penguins) this past offseason, Hulton has leaned on Joseph for big minutes on the back end.
“Jim has been great for me,” Joseph noted. “He wants the best for all of us and he pushes us to be the best players that we can be. I think he has helped us stay focused on the things that we need to improve on. We are a young team right now and we have to be working hard to get better every day.”
Despite their many newcomers, the Islanders are off to an 11-8-1-0 start to the season with wins in eight of their past 10 contests.
Though he’s never donned the maple leaf himself, Joseph does have a pretty good source of inside information in older brother Mathieu who earned silver with Canada at the World Juniors last year in Montreal and Toronto.
Now in the American Hockey League with Tampa Bay’s top affiliate in Syracuse, the elder Joseph did share his CIBC Canada Russia Series insights with little brother.
“He just said to have fun and embrace the moment,” said Pierre-Olivier. “These games are easy to get excited about, so I am looking forward to my first shift and trying to win this series.”
Game 5 of the CIBC Canada Russia Series between Team QMJHL and Team Russia hits the ice at the Eastlink Centre tonight at 7:00pm ET/8:00pm AT on Sportsnet East, Ontario and Pacific.