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Joshua Roy: “Hockey Sense Already at Pro-Level”

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Montreal Canadiens

Joshua Roy, perhaps the most underrated Montreal Canadiens prospect, has wowed fans on the ice all season in the QMJHL, but it’s his off-ice attributes that make him a tailor-made player for the rabid Montreal market.

The 18-year-old possesses a level of humility and maturity that is rare to find in skilled players of that age, and his ability to channel pressure into success makes him tailor-made to be a member of the Montreal Canadiens down the line.

Roy’s journey has been full of ups and downs in his young career. Going from being selected first overall by the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL Draft in 2019 to playing third-line minutes as a 17-year-old, to being traded to a new club before his 18th birthday; Roy has had to surmount a ton of expectations, criticism, and obstacles on his way to becoming a top player in the QMJHL. The youngster didn’t make any excuses when he sat down with Montreal Hockey Now to talk about his journey so far; he focused on the present and completed the next task.

He hasn’t backed down from the added pressure that was thrust onto him, being a Quebec-born prospect of the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, Sherbrooke Phoenix head coach and general manager Stéphane Julien believes that Roy’s ability to continuously overcome adversity and feed off the pressure he faces make him a perfect fit as a member of the Montreal Canadiens down the road.

 

Grow as a Team, Win as a Team

The Montreal Canadiens were impressed with Roy’s growth during the 2nd half of the season and decided to take a chance on the youngster by selecting him 150th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. Joshua was in the midst of a rigorous offseason training program in the summer and was given that extra bit of motivation, being selected by the Canadiens at a time when his NHL future was still up in the air.

“I had an idea that the Canadiens were looking at me. My trainer told me that one of the Canadiens scouts was interested and liked me a lot, so I had a hunch something could happen,” said Roy on the Canadiens’ interest toward him leading up to the 201 NHL Draft. “But I had no idea that the Canadiens were actually going to draft me. On the day of the draft, I didn’t even know if any team was going to pick me. I was pleasantly surprised.”

Roy didn’t sit back on the joy of being drafted for too long, as he and his Sherbrooke teammates trained aggressively during the summer, knowing their upcoming season was their big chance to go all the way. Teammate Xavier Parent pointed to the discipline and extra effort put forth by Roy and, by proxy, the rest of the club, as they met multiple times in the summer to continue pushing themselves to improve their conditioning.

“We, as a team, really committed to an intense training regiment last summer. We came back to Sherbrooke a few times to do some physicals and everyone, including Joshua, worked really hard to come to camp in the best possible shape,” said Parent on Roy and the Sherbrooke Phoenix’s rigorous training schedule.

Joshua used this time to push himself physically to grow stronger and faster. Roy was not shy about pointing to his skating as the biggest thing he wanted to continue improving. The maturity required to evaluate oneself in such an unapologetic and constructive manner has paid dividends for him, according to this in his entourage.

“He’ll say his skating isn’t the best, but it’s pretty remarkable how much he’s improved his skating, “said Xavier Parent on his teammate’s progress this summer in improving his speed. “He can now use that speed to make little plays that go totally unnoticed and yet make the biggest difference on the ice.

Even general manager Julien points to his skating having considerably improved, with other aspects now requiring further attention, as he continues to grow into a professional athlete.

“I don’t think his skating is necessarily the problem,” said Julien about Roy’s self-assessment. “He’s already done such a great job. He’s strong on his skates; it takes a pretty big hit to knock him off his skates. He just needs to improve those first two-three strides that he must improve to gain that separation from forecheckers.”

Roy wanted to be in the best possible shape in his life. The youngster didn’t have a chip on his shoulder or any kind of revenge tour in mind. He just wanted to be the best player he could be, while also seeking to validate the confidence that the Phoenix and the Canadiens had shown him by pushing his body to the limit. Needless to say, it more than paid off.

 

Roy’s Coming Out Party

After a summer of intense training, it was time for Roy to put himself to the test as he made his way to the Montreal Canadiens Rookie Camp in early September 2021. Unlike his initial experience with the Sea Dogs at age 16, being an incoming 1st overall pick, Roy took this camp in stride without any pressure on his shoulders. He instantly wowed fans and Montreal Canadiens management by consistently being in the right place at the right time and making intelligent plays all over the ice.

Roy was able to earn an invite to the Montreal Canadiens Training Camp due to his exceptional play during the week prior amongst the Canadiens’ other prospects. He didn’t get into pre-season games, but the Canadiens wanted to have him around to practice with NHL veterans, recognizing they could have something special in Roy. For Joshua, it was an experience that he felt helped him make the best possible first impression and really gave him momentum going into this 2021-2022 season in the QMJHL.

“When I got to Rookie Camp, I had no pressure; being a 5th round pick,” said Roy about his first experience within the Canadiens organization. “I showed up to make the best first impression possible, and it wound up going even better than I thought it could. It really gave me that extra boost when I went back to Phoenix.”

Roy returned from Training Camp and absolutely took off with the Sherbrooke Phoenix, quickly taking over the scoring lead in the QMJHL and staying at the top, or near it, all the way into the holiday season. Roy had maintained an average of two points per game during that span, while helping his club to the top of the QMJHL standings.

McLean's Pub

Roy’s incredible offensive production gave the top executives at Hockey Canada no choice but to invite him to try out for Team Canada’s World Junior team in late November. He was quickly able to impress at the Selection Camp, as he was paired with 16-year-old phenom Connor Bedard in his first scrimmage, wowing Hockey Canada with his creativity and instant chemistry with Bedard. Although he was ultimately one of the last cuts of that star-studded roster, Roy felt he had made a great first impression and was already excited about next year’s tournament.

“It was a great experience for me to practice with the best players in this country,” said Roy about his experience at the Team Canada World Junior Selection Camp. “Getting to play with the best players in the country like Connor Bedard and those guys; it was just a great experience.”

Since returning from Team Canada’s camp, Roy has picked up right where he left off, continuing to produce offensively, while playing clutch hockey for the Phoenix as the games become more challenging and more meaningful. General manager Julien points to these crucial games as when Roy is going to really show just how much he’s improved over the last year.

“When the puck is on Josh’s stick, you know something going to happen, especially in a critical setting,” said Julien on Joshua’s game-breaking ability. “It’s rare to see him turn over the puck or lose a puck, especially in the offensive zone. His hockey sense and ability to make plays are already at the pro-level. That’s his strength, top-end hockey sense.”

Roy remains focused on helping his team reach the top of the mountain in the QMJHL in a season that will likely see him nominated for the Michel-Brière Trophy, awarded annually to the regular season’s Most Valuable Player. He doesn’t care much about the accolades or the point totals. For him, it’s all about what’s in front of him and his team’s success.

“I don’t really think about it, to be honest. It’s more of a distraction than anything else,” said Roy on the scoring race in the QMJHL this year. “My focus is on what I can do, one game at a time. If I focus on the little details and work hard, the points will come.”

Roy’s grounded nature and mature outlook on his team’s success, rather than celebrating his own accomplishments, shows just how much the player has grown since joining Sherbrooke a little over a year ago. Despite putting up 90 points in his last 48 games, offensive numbers that an 18-year-old hasn’t replicated in over a decade, Roy continues to keep his feet on the ground and put the team first. His focus remains on the present, with an eye to the future with the Montreal Canadiens.

Montreal Canadiens or A Return to Sherbrooke?

Joshua is focused on the present and is enjoying the success he and his team are having at the moment. Even though he’s seen a sharp improvement in play, his progress is far from over, and he’ll be the first one to tell you.

“I’m not too worried about the future; I’m really focused on the present and helping my team have a top spot heading into the playoffs,” said Roy about his mindset moving forward. “We’ll have the playoffs, and then I might take a little break to rest my body. I want to then take the summer to train really hard so that I can come to next season’s training camp.”

Many fans are already questioning whether or not Roy could crack the roster next season with general manager Kent Hughes looking to liquidate some veterans and get younger in some positions. Joshua shrugged off any mention of cracking the Canadiens roster, believing his junior team to be his priority until he feels completely ready to take the next step. His general manager also cautioned patience regarding Roy’s development, which has been affected by two pauses in back-to-back seasons due to Covid-19.

“I do think he would benefit from another season in junior next year,” said Julien on what he feels is the right path for Joshua’s development moving forward. “It’s either Sherbrooke or Montreal for him next season, and, if he’s not playing on your top-6, he should be back in junior. He’s a guy that needs to continue that momentum and see as much ice as possible.”

Roy is totally okay with taking his time, again emphasizing his desire to take it one step at a time. His respect for the developmental process is commendable, as many in his shoes would love the opportunity to fast-track their NHL careers. Instead, Roy pointed to the possibility of a larger role with the Phoenix next year as certain players like Xavier Parent move on to other ventures, while also hoping to be part of the conversation for Team Canada’s next Selection Camp; be it in late July for the rescheduled 2022 edition or in December for the upcoming 2023 edition.

Coach Julien believes Roy has become a can’t miss player and should see his dream of playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships realized; it’s just a question of when.

“If Team Canada has another selection camp, I don’t see how they can ignore a player like Joshua at this point,” said Julien regarding the potential of Roy being on the World Junior Championship roster either in August or December. “For me, he’s a can’t-miss player for Team Canada. If it’s not in August, it’ll surely be in December.”

The Montreal Canadiens have a lot to look forward to, as the organization’s youngest prospect continues to grow his game and become a more complete player, one step at a time.

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