In the NHL, success is often built on a foundation of dedication, resilience, and self-belief.
Dakota Joshua has a career-best 12 goals this season and his contributions with linemates Teddy Blueger and Conor Garland have been important in the Canucks’ success.
He’s put in a lot of hard work to get to where’s he is, and seeing success has built his confidence. Reflecting on his progress this season, Joshua feels his success has a lot to do with the people around him. Playing together continuously with Blueger and Garland, they’re able to read each other more easily and drive play.
“Teddy and Gar, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a connection on a line with two other people like that, so I have to thank them a lot for it too,” Joshua said. “There’s a good read on what positions we’re going to or where we’re going to try to put the puck for each other. We’re also good at supporting if somebody is in a tough position, we know to get close and help out, and our confidence has grown as a line.”
Head Coach Rick Tocchet sees improvement in all parts of Joshua’s game, and he’s impressed with his attitude to continue to work on his craft.
“Every part of his game has gotten better: his hands, his pucks skills, his shot’s got a little bit better, his skating, everything’s gone up 5-10 percent. I look at his overall game and his hockey IQ, when you can improve, even if it’s five percent on all these different categories. You become a better hockey player,” Tocchet said.
“He’s a guy that really knows what is expected of him. And if he doesn’t play well, now he’s mad and he wants to do something about it. He very rarely has a couple of bad games put together. I think that’s a credit to him.”
The 27-year-old matched his point total from last season, with 23 points through 48 games. His per-60 has improved 57% over last year with 1.05 goals-per-60, compared to 0.67 goal-per-60 last season. As equally as important as his offensive numbers is his physicality, denoted by 143 hits.
The improvement in his anticipation, he says, is a result of playing more, and being comfortable on the ice. He’s looking to attack more on both ends of the ice and can make reads faster, making it easier to find opportunities to strike.
Joshua said there’s more to be done and while he’s focusing on his consistency and improving, his buy-in has gone a long way with the Canucks’ coaching staff. Tocchet said he needed more from Joshua after Training Camp and preseason. The head coach challenged Joshua to step up and be the player he knew he could be. Tocchet said it takes a lot of character to take criticism and rebound from it and since Joshua sat out November 2nd against the San Jose Sharks, he’s put up 22 of his 23 points.
“I sat him out because I wasn’t pleased with his training camp. He took the constructive criticism, he didn’t pout, he went did something about it,” Tocchet said. “People make mistakes. He knew he made mistakes, but it’s how he dealt with them. He knew he had to change, he did, and I respect the hell out of him.”
Knowing who you are and what you’re made of is usually found in some of the toughest times and Joshua leveraged those experiences to fuel his improvement.
With St Louis Blues, he spent time in the AHL and was sent down to the ECHL and played 20 games in his rookie season.
“Those were some of the toughest times in my life. The adversity early on in pro hockey has helped me now and nothing will ever be as daunting as going through those systems,” Joshua said.
“You’re not getting sent down to the coast (ECHL), but you realize, again, that your job is on the line and it’s an honour to play in the NHL, and something you can’t take for granted. So, after playing the whole year last year and then being challenged and not having a spot this year was definitely a challenge, but also in the back of my mind. I knew that if I could make it from the coast to where I was that I could handle it.”
Stiving for consistency, he’s focusing on the present and using the rearview mirror to make himself better. He’s always skating hard in practice, creating good habits, so when it comes to the game it’s instinctual.
“I tell myself that every game I play is going to be my best game. When it’s not, you tell yourself again the next game that’s going be the best game. Looking back at times when you’re successful and if you’re not doing well, thinking about what can do to get back to it,” he said.
Joshua’s happy the hard work has paid off so far and is keeping his foot on the gas.
“The belief from Tocc has come a long way and then working day after day and getting consistency in my game has bode well for me.”