Once in a blue moon, a hockey trade will feature a future All-Star being traded for an aging veteran. The Pittsburgh Penguins swung such a deal with the Arizona Coyotes that brought them the services of cornerstone blueliner Pierre-Olivier Joseph. After being drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the first round of the 2017 NHL draft (23rd overall), he knew his hard work paid off and it was his time to shine.
The Coyotes were struggling during this time on and off the ice and were going in a different direction. They were rebuilding while making trades of no significance. The Coyotes did make a deal that is now showing signs of being a steal for Pittsburgh. On June 29, 2019, Joseph was traded to the Penguins along with Alex Galchenyuk for Phil Kessel, Dane Birks, and a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Pierre-Olivier, younger brother of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph, is a soft-spoken player. He started his playing career in the QMJHL, playing for the Charlottetown Islanders and the Drummondville Voltigeur. He was named an alternate captain in his second season in the league and captain his third and fourth year in Charlottetown. He finished his QMJHL career with Drummondville, playing four total seasons and registering 29 goals and 140 points in 235 games. The scouts began to take notice of his steady play during his first year in Charlottetown.
Joseph a Coyote, Then a Penguin
It’s an honor to be drafted, and it can be unsettling to be traded from the organization that selected you. The trade to Pittsburgh was different. Joseph would be sharing the ice with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound Joseph was determined to make a difference, despite the talent around him, with new a opportunity and a chance at the Stanley Cup. In 16 games this season with Pittsburgh, he has one goal, five points, and he’s a plus-1. Joseph has also seen time in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, recording a goal, 10 points, and 22 penalty minutes in 17 games.
Although his minutes have declined a bit as the season concludes, he is in line for a top-four spot next season. The reason for the decline in minutes is the Penguins prefer a veteran roster, or playoff experienced roster, heading into the playoffs. When the playoffs are near the rookies or second-year guys have minutes reduced or do not play at all.
Joseph has size. He is tall and lanky yet strong on the puck. He also has speed and an excellent transition game, while playing on any pairing. While he is versatile and can play all special teams, he can hit like a truck and play the physical game, yet play the power-play quarterback and create chances. Although it’s never easy to crack the NHL as a young defenseman, Joseph is surrounded by talented veterans who can show him the ropes. He has said he models his game after New Jersey blueliner P.K. Subban and could maybe take over as power-play quarterback when Letang retires.
Joseph has the potential to be a great NHL defenseman and lead the Penguins’ defensive core. If his handful of NHL games tells us anything, it is that he looks ready for a full-time spot, and he does not look out of place. (from ‘Penguins reassign Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Drew O’Connor,’ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 03/05/2021) Joseph is a special talent and could reach elite status. He would pair nicely with Letang and learn from the best. What makes him a future All-Star is he is playing like he is a veteran.
Defensively, he is positionally sound, can take a hit to make a play, is great at defending odd-man rushes, plays against top lines on the opposing team, makes great outlet passes, and he moves opposing forwards out of the way so the goaltender has clear access to the puck. Offensively, he can lead the rush out of his own zone or go end-to-end on his own, he can create offense by going down low behind the net and he has a booming shot that can either blow by the goalie or be deflected for an offensive chance.
He is still very young and has not yet played a full NHL season, but from what he has shown he looks ready and has the tools, but is still green. When he does put it all together and does secure a spot on the Penguins’ blue line, he will be a force to be reckoned with. Joseph looks to be a fixture on the Penguins blue line for years to come. This kid has it all and is about to show the show he belongs.