The Montreal Canadiens selected several local players in the most recent 2021 NHL Draft, and in Joshua Roy, they have a former first-overall pick in the QMJHL Draft, and they took him in the fifth round. The talent is there, but whether he can reach the potential that made him that high of a pick in junior will be something to watch as the 2021-22 season gets under way.
His offence in the shortened 2020-21 season shows why he’s an intriguing selection. He improved his production despite splitting his time between two teams. His 18 points in 20 games with Sherbrooke was actually good enough for second in team scoring, despite only playing in 20 of the team’s 27 games. Likewise, his numbers in Saint John were good enough for 11th in team scoring despite only playing in 15 of the team’s 33 games.
The voting was fairly up and down for Roy. Only four of the panelists had him in the Top 25, but he had two grades in the top-15. Five voters, including the EOTP community, had him either 26th or 27th, and two others had him 23rd and 24th. On the other side, you had two voters who had him in the 30s.
It’s hard to get too excited about fifth-round picks immediately following the draft, but there is definitely a hint of optimism surrounding Roy and his potential. It’s part of the reason that I put him ahead of some players drafted before him.
In our consensus draft rankings, he was ranked 90th overall which is a third-round prospect.
History of #22
When you’re drafted first overall as a forward in any draft, it’s likely because you have some sort of offensive ability, and Roy’s selection in the 2019 QMJHL Draft put him ahead of NHL first-round pick Zachary L’Heureux (third overall in the 2019 QMJHL Draft), and fellow Canadiens 2021 pick Riley Kidney (11th overall).
There’s obviously a lot of development and room for changes and by no means should he be seen as a better prospect simply because of his draft position in junior. However, the scoring numbers he showed at the U17 level is quite good, including 88 points in 42 games in his last U17 season at the AAA level.
His key offensive weapon is his shot. He has a heavy shot that can beat goaltenders, and he knows how to find space in order to get his shot off. He’s also a decent puck-handler. His anticipation is also good, knowing when to be more aggressive or more defensive. He also has the ability to make plays with his passing.
At 6’0, 190 lbs, his stature and weight allow him to remain a physical threat and an excellent puck-protector. He is able to use his size to his advantage to block defenders from stealing the puck from his control. He is also able to use his size to attack and fight for rebounds or loose pucks on broken plays.
If you read the above, you may wonder why a prospect like this would be available in the fifth round, and you’d be right. It’s also an explanation for why some voters are so high on him.
Like all late round picks, there’s a catch. For Roy, it’s partly the circumstances surrounding his exit from Saint John, the team that drafted him so high. Roy asked for the trade to Sherbrooke this past season, and in his post-draft media availability with the Canadiens he said that he didn’t feel like the Sea Dogs had an environment conducive to develop his game.
“I asked for the trade because I didn’t feel like the environment [in Saint John] was the best. Sherbrooke is a great organization and I already feel an improvement in my game since I went there,” Roy said. “The practices were not good practices. They were 30-45 minutes, flow drills, more skill-based. The road trips, the nutrition... it wasn’t great... I didn’t find it was a normal junior team. I went to Sherbrooke and saw what a real junior team was like.”
This isn’t necessarily a spot where Roy is at fault for asking for a trade, or that it’s indicative of an attitude issue. It’s merely to explain why he may have fallen in the draft, and why he is so motivated to change the narrative surrounding his game.
One aspect of his on-ice play where he may struggle is that his skating is not ideal, and his competitiveness may not be at the level that’s needed to fight through the higher levels when his skills won’t be enough.
He also needs to improve his even strength scoring and his defence, which will need to carry him to the next level. Of his 22 combined goals last season, eight were on the power play as were five of his 13 assists. As skilled as he is, he won’t be able to perform at the NHL level simply because of that part of his game.
In his post-draft media availability, Roy was adamant that he is working hard this off-season to silence his critics. He knows he has yet to live up to the expectations that made him a top QMJHL pick, and said that his goal is to come back for this season and to be one of the best players in the league.
If he is able to do that, he will surely become the latest draft gem for the Canadiens, and move up this ranking fairly quickly.
His upside is probably that of a top-six NHL talent if he could improve his overall game. His calling card has been his offence, but it won’t be what gets him to the NHL.
At this point, the talk is just that. He put his cards on the table by asking for a trade. He admits he’s now in an ideal situation. Now it will be the time to prove it on the ice. There are definite strong points to his game, but the ability to put it all together at a higher level will be what needs to happen next to raise his profile as an NHL prospect.
Get caught up with the first part of our Top 25 Under 25 as Patrik Bexell and Anton Rasegård discuss the first three entries in the Top 25 here: