All Arizona Coyotes prospect Josh Doan wants to do is win.
The level he’s played at hasn’t changed that outlook, either, whether it’s been with the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes, the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Chicago Steel, or his current team, the Arizona State Sun Devils. That competitive fire is evident in practice as much as it is in games, and is a contributing factor to why the Coyotes selected him 37th overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Though the pressure and excitement of a potential NHL career will always loom in the back of his mind, the little things — enjoying college life, improving as a hockey player, and bonding with his teammates — are what he’s focused on in his freshman year in Tempe.
Doan’s Hockey Pedigree Speaks For Itself
If the name looks familiar (and it should), that’s because Doan’s father, Shane, is Arizona hockey royalty. Growing up within the Coyotes organization, Josh has had the chance to observe the NHL life first hand, though he never felt any pressure from his dad to pursue hockey if his interest in the sport ever waned.
To this point, he’s let his love of hockey drive his competitive spirit, a lesson instilled in him early on by his father.
“[My dad] always told me growing up that the time I take the fun out of the game is the time I lose my creativity, which is one of the things I pride myself on, is playing the game with a creative IQ and mindset,” Josh said. “At the end of the day, it’s a game, and if you’re having fun, then you’re going to be successful. That’s what I stick to, and if I’m doing that, then it usually pans out really well for me.”
If that’s the criteria for success, than clearly, to this point, he’s having fun.
In just two games with the Sun Devils this season, the 19-year-old forward has five assists, certainly no surprise considering his highly-touted Hockey IQ and vision on the ice. Complimented by an extremely strong shot, his production potential was on full display with the Steel in 2020-21, when he logged 70 points (31 goals, 39 assists) in 53 games. He also contributed five points in eight playoff games.
Doan was third in the league in total points, and helped the Steel to both the league’s best regular season record and championship. Even with all the early-career accolades, though, his competitiveness continues to fuel a winning mentality.
“He’s going to have a big role right away, but at the end of the day he just wants to win at ASU, leave his mark here, and whatever he’s done, whether it’s two, three, or four years from now, he wants to look back and know the he contributed to us winning games,” said ASU hockey coach Greg Powers. “He hates to lose. You can’t have enough of those guys.”
It’s not just a winning mentality that defines the 6-foot-2, 176 pound winger, though. He’s a natural born leader who isn’t afraid to step up and pass his hockey experience on. Last season in Chicago he was roommates with teammate Johnny Walker’s brother, Jake Livanavage, and used that as an opportunity to help mentor the then-16-year-old.
That leadership ability is something that caught Walker’s attention.
“For an older guy to step up and really take him under his wing, it really says a lot about him to be able to care for your teammates like that, and it says a lot about his character,” Walker said. “We’re lucky to have him, and he will be a huge impact for this program for a long time.”
For Doan, the feeling, and admiration, are mutual.
“Jake looks up to his big brother Johnny, so he gave me all the good things about Johnny, and he wasn’t wrong about any of it,” Doan joked. “[Walker] is a guy you like to be around in the locker room. He’s a fun guy that keeps everything light.
“Obviously his play speaks for itself. He’s a pretty exceptional hockey player.”
Coyotes Prospect Development Camp Offered Unique Opportunity
Naturally, Doan has had a vested interest in the NHL community for the majority of his life, to the point of following previous iterations of Arizona’s Prospect Development Camp online. He used to spend his summers in Canada, and would actually live-stream the camp to observe.
Not something the typical teenager is focused on during summer break, but it’s already been established that Doan is not your typical prospect.
He recalled the first time he streamed the camp, which was one that former Coyote and current Columbus Blue Jacket Max Domi participated in. The last time he streamed it was after the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, when he remembers watching British prospect Liam Kirk participate in his first camp.
With the ability to participate in this year’s camp (when he wasn’t in class, of course), Doan had the opportunity to skate alongside Kirk, an opportunity that was not lost on him
“Doing that camp was something that I was looking forward to, and pretty grateful that I had a chance to do it earlier in the summer,” he said, “Getting to go out there was pretty cool, and getting to work with their coaches and skate with the players there was great.”
The lessons he learned at camp included skating, as well as getting to the net more. One of the biggest adjustments he’s had to make over the years is the increasing talent level, because with each promotion, the opposition gets that much stronger, faster, and more skilled.
“Once you get up in the ranks in hockey, goals are harder to come by,” Doan said. “You gotta get up to the net, and that’s something that’s preached by everyone.”
Another aspect of his game that he’s focusing on right now is more how to use his larger frame to his advantage. Doan recalled his smaller stature when he was younger, and he was not able to depend as much on on his size and strength, at least not as much as he can now.
That’s changed now, and though his strengths and weaknesses have evolved as a player, one thing has never wavered: His competitive drive.
“We just have a belief here, that it doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re drafted, or what your last name is, because If you want to win, then you’re going to be successful, and all Doaner wants to do is win,” Powers said. “He’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever coached.”
Professional Aspirations Aside, Doan is Living in the Moment
Though his time as a professional may come, potentially sooner rather than later, Doan isn’t worried about anything other than the pursuit of success at the collegiate level.
“Whenever the time is that the Coyotes need me, or want me up, then I’ll be happy when that day comes,” Doan said, “but right now I’m just trying to live in the moment here at ASU and enjoy every day I can.”
So far, it’s working out beautifully for the Sun Devils, and may someday be just as fruitful for the Coyotes.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.