When the Montreal Canadiens made Joshua Roy their fifth-round pick in 2021, it wasn’t to much fanfare. Rarely is there any hype around late selections, but there was perhaps more potential to that pick than you normally see that late in the draft.
A former first overall pick in the QMJHL Draft, Roy managed exactly a point-per-game clip in his draft year split between the Saint John Sea Dogs and Sherbrooke Phoenix. The hope was that he had a little more to offer than what he’d already shown. He delivered in spades during his draft-plus-one season.
He exploded for 119 points through 66 games with Sherbrooke in 2021-22, leading his team, and taking home the Jean Beliveau trophy as the top scorer in the QMJHL. With 23 points in 11 playoff games, he got even better as the stakes got higher, and really put 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 at the ill-fated winter run of the tournament, but his season in Sherbrooke made him undeniable for the August edition. There, he put up eight points in seven games, and played crucial minutes for the gold medal-winning squad.
There may not have been a lot of hype when he was drafted, but his exponential improvement since then has made him one of the hottest names in a deep Montreal prospect pool. If he keeps improving at his current rate, he will likely go down as the biggest steal of the 2021 NHL Draft.
With a high vote of fifth, and a low of 12, our panel is quite confident in Roy overall as a prospect. Particularly in such a strong prospect pool, that he climbs on our list this fast is a testament to how much he has improved since being drafted.
I was that high vote, and I knew I’d be looking to put him in my top five after watching the majority of his games this season. His offensive abilities give him a very high ceiling, and I have extremely high confidence in his ability to make the improvements he’ll need in order to reach it.
Top 25 Under 25 History
In this deep of a prospect pool, a significant impression has to be made for this kind of jump, from 22 to 7, and he clearly managed that last year.
History of #7
|2014||Jacob de la Rose|
He is about as accomplished a shooter as you’ll find at the Junior level. He has excellent mechanics, good velocity, and pinpoint accuracy that allows him to beat goaltenders from anywhere. His release is so quick and deceptive that he doesn’t need a big windup or a lot of open space to put it to use. If you give him the smallest opening, 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 uses the mere threat of his shot to manipulate lanes for his passing. His passes are crisp and accurate, and he gets creative with his setups to make it very difficult to predict where he’s going with them. He also has an innate sense of where his teammates are supposed to be on the ice, and can pull off some jaw-dropping feeds as a result.
He shows excellent hockey IQ and ever-improving positioning, often causing the opposing team to completely lose him in coverage, then re-appear attacking downhill. He makes up for a lack of wow-factor speed by taking smart routes, and through his greatly improved off-puck positioning.
His physical and defensive play is also quite underrated. Dave Cameron gave us a real look at that during the World Juniors, electing to put him in a checking role against the best the opposition had to offer. He had been very solid defensively for Sherbrooke during the season, but when given a chance to show off his 200-foot game on the big stage, he really drove home how hard he’s been working at improving that aspect of his play.
It is all but universally agreed that skating is the main thing he needs to improve in order to reach his potential. I disagree with comments about him being slow, because that is really an oversimplification of what hinders him.
As my former colleague David St-Louis puts it, his posture is what holds him back. He’s hunched over and lacking ankle flexion, meaning it takes more time and effort for him to reach and maintain his top speed. It also limits his ability to make quick cuts and be elusive, forcing him to use his stickhandling and play off his teammates to create space.
As one may predict, and as evidenced by Mitch Brown’s player tracking, the lack of acceleration has a big impact on his transition game. He can’t get up to speed quick enough, so he greatly favours passing off to his teammates or dumping the puck in/out of the zone. His positioning and physicality give him an edge in terms of winning those pucks back, but the ability to exit and enter zones with possession more regularly would be crucial to him realizing his potential.
The good news Is that he has an incredible work ethic. His conditioning is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was at the beginning of his draft year, and his skating has also taken a step forward. There is still work to be done, but with how much he has already improved his game, you have to like his chances of being able to make the necessary adjustments.
If he can continue to improve his skating, he has top-six scoring winger written all over him. The threat of his shot, coupled with his ability to bluff and manipulate passing lanes to set up teammates, could make him a great weapon for one of the top two trios in Montreal. His versatility on the power play could make him a lock for the top power-play unit regardless of who he’s with at five-on-five.
If he can’t show some more skating improvement, the aforementioned transitional play issues will be a problem at the professional level. This would likely limit him to a checking role even in the AHL, would significantly limit his offensive output, and he’d have a tough time reaching his ceiling.
I have about as much faith in him as I’ve ever had in a player to make the necessary adjustments. The Canadiens are in no rush to have him join their ranks, so he should see at most the nine-game tryout 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 for a big role with Team Canada again at the 2023 World Juniors, so we’ll get a very solid sample from which to judge his progress.
His work ethic makes him someone the Canadiens’ development team should find very easy to work with. If he shows more improvement this year, and brings that work ethic to camp with Adam Nicholas, I’ll boldly predict that we could see him challenging for a roster spot with the Habs as early as 2023-24.
Of course, a season in Laval would 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 him.
Matt Drake becomes the expert along with Anton “the Fugitive” Rasegård and Patrik Bexell as they discuss Joshua Roy: