On June 29, 2019, the Pittsburgh Penguins traded Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes after four seasons and a pair of Stanley Cups.
In return, the Penguins received their no-doubt top defensive prospect, Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
Ever since arriving in Pittsburgh, fans and reporters alike have agreed that Joseph is the future of the Penguins defensive core.
Joseph has already appeared in a handful of NHL games, but why hasn’t he taken the next step and become a regular in the Pens lineup?
According to Penguins historian Bob Grove, Joseph’s development hasn’t been the same as others in his draft class.
“He has not developed at the pace that was expected,” Grove said. “And that happens sometimes. But he is coming off his best year in the American League.”
Joseph was drafted 23rd overall in the 2017 NHL Draft and has only played in 20 games with the Penguins, scoring a goal and four assists for five points.
In the first two rounds of the 2017 draft, 21 defensemen were selected, 16 of them have played NHL games.
Only one of those 16 have played fewer than Joseph’s 20 games, Winnipeg Jets selection Dylan Samberg.
Other defensmen in the 2017 draft class have played far north of 100 games and accomplished great things, while Joseph struggles to find a spot in the NHL.
In 2022-23, if Joseph is still not making the NHL lineup, that could be detrimental to not just his season, but his career as a whole.
“This is it,” Grove said. “If he can’t make it this year, then it’s going to be a pretty short career for him in the National Hockey League.”
That’s frightening. One of the Penguins top prospects might not have a long career because he hasn’t been given his proper looks to play in the NHL.
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