When Montreal Canadiens Joshua Roy made his fifth-round pick in 2021, it wasn’t much of a fanfare. There’s rarely any hype around late selections, but there was probably more potential for this selection than you usually see late in the draft.
Roy was a former first general pick in the QMJHL Draft, managing the exact per-game point segment in the draft year that was split between Saint John Sea Dogs and Sherbrooke Phoenix. The hope was that he had a little more to offer than he had already shown. He delivered spades during a plus one draft season.
He exploded with 119 points through 66 games for Sherbrooke in 2021-22, captaining his team, and earning the Jean Bellevue Cup as QMJHL’s top scorer. With 23 points in 11 playoffs, he got better as the stakes increased, truly putting himself on the map as a legitimate NHL prospect.
It put him on the map for the Canadian national junior team as well. He was a reserve player for Team Canada in the ill-fated winter round of the tournament, but his season at Sherbrooke made him undeniable in the August edition. There, he put up eight points in seven games, playing crucial minutes for the gold-medal-winning team.
It may not have been much hype when it was drafted, but its rapid improvement since then has made it one of the most recognizable names in the Montreal Deep Horizons group. If he continues to improve at his current rate, he will likely go down as the biggest steal in the 2021 NHL Draft.
With a 5th high vote and 12 low votes, our team is fully confident in Roy overall as a possibility. Especially in such a strong range of prospects, that it climbed onto our list so quickly is a testament to how much it has improved since it was drafted.
I got that high rating, and I knew I’d be looking forward to putting him in my top five after watching most of his games this season. His offensive capabilities give him a very high bar, and I have very great confidence in his ability to make the improvements he’ll need to get to him.
Top 25 under 25 in history
Deep into this potential rally, an important impression should be made for that kind of jump, from 22nd to 7th, and he clearly managed that last year.
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It is about to accomplish the shooter as you will find in the beginner level. He has excellent mechanics, good speed and extreme accuracy that allow him to beat goalkeepers from anywhere. Its release is so quick and tricky that it doesn’t need a lot of space or a large open space to use it. If you give him the smallest slot, he can make you pay with a quick flick of the wrists.
When he can’t, or when he doesn’t like his shooting lane, he just uses the threat of his shot to manipulate the lanes to pass him. His passes are clear and precise, and he excels in his setup to make it extremely difficult to predict where he will go with them. He also has an innate sense of where his teammates are supposed to be on the ice, and can get some amazing fodder as a result.
He showed excellent hockey IQ and constantly improved the situation, often causing the opposing team to completely lose coverage, and then again appear as a striker on the slopes. It makes up for the wow factor’s lack of speed by taking clever ways, and by its greatly improved off-disk positioning.
His physical and defensive performance was also underestimated. Dave Cameron gave us a real look at it during world youth, choosing to place him in an audit role against the best that the opponent can offer. He’s been a pretty solid defensive player for Sherbrooke during the season, but when he had the chance to show his 200-foot-tall on the big stage, he really drove home how hard he has worked to improve this aspect of his game.
It is universally agreed that skateboarding is the main thing he needs to improve in order to reach his potential. I don’t agree with the comments about it being slow, because that’s really an oversimplification of what’s holding it back.
As my former colleague David St. Louis said, it’s his situation that’s holding him back. It is curved and lacks ankle flexion, which means it takes more time and effort to reach and maintain its top speed. It also limits his ability to make quick cuts and be elusive, forcing him to use his persistence and beat his teammates to create space.
As one might predict, and as evidenced by tracking player Mitch Brown, the lack of acceleration has a huge impact on his transition game. He can’t get up fast enough, so he strongly prefers passing the ball to his teammates or throwing the disc in/out of the area. His position and physicality give him an advantage in terms of reclaiming those pucks, but the ability to get out and into areas with possession more regularly will be crucial for him to realize his potential.
The good news is that he has an incredible work ethic. His conditioning is well ahead of what it was at the start of his draft year, and his skate has taken a step further. There is still work to be done, but with how much better his game really is, you have to love his chances of him being able to make the necessary adjustments.
If he can keep improving his skating, he’ll have a top six wing written on him. His threatening shot, along with his ability to bluff and manipulate passing lanes to create his teammates, could make him a great weapon for one of Montreal’s top two. Its versatility in the power game can make it a lock for the highest power playback unit no matter who’s five years old.
If he can’t show more improvement in skateboarding, the above transitional play issues will be a problem at the professional level. This will likely limit him to a checking role even in the AHL, will drastically limit his offensive production, and he will struggle to reach his ceiling.
I have more faith in him than ever in any player to make the necessary adjustments. The Canadians are in no hurry to join their ranks, so he should see at most a nine-game experience with the club before being sent back to Sherbrooke, where he is expected to be named captain. In December, he should also be in line to play a big part with Team Canada again at the 2023 World Junior Championships, so we’ll have a pretty solid sample from which to judge his progress.
His work ethic makes him a very easy person for the Canadian development team to work with. If he shows further improvement this year, and brings that work ethic into camp with Adam Nicholas, I will boldly anticipate that we could see him challenge for a place on a roster with the Habs as early as 2023-24.
Of course, the season at Laval could also be a strong possibility, but if there’s one thing Joshua Roy has shown since his draft year, it’s that you shouldn’t sleep on it.
Matt Drake became the expert with Anton “Fugitive” Rassgaard and Patrick Bexel while discussing Joshua Roy: