Jadon Joseph has to be one of the more optimistic young men you’ll meet.
The 20-year-old Kelowna Rockets centre has just finished his first week with his fifth Western Hockey League team. But rather than lament having to settle into new routines, he’s calling his arrival here “a blessing.”
“I’ve been very fortunate with the places I’ve gone,” Joseph said Friday at practice.
The Rockets acquired Joseph from the Moose Jaw Warriors on Sunday for forwards Kyle Crosbie and Kobe Mohr, goalie James Porter and a draft pick.
The Rockets needed help winning faceoffs, something Joseph is adept at doing. His 252 faceoff wins rank him 11th in the league. He wins 58.3% of his faceoffs, or fifth best among players with at least 144 attempts.
It’s good to be wanted, especially on a team with an automatic berth into the Memorial Cup after this season.
Moose Jaw is amid a rebuild, and has 10 players age 17 — or in their first or second WHL seasons. Joseph was there to mentor that young group, but when Moose Jaw saw the chance to add three veterans and a draft pick, they made the trade.
“They’re going to be a great team in the future,” Joseph said.
It has to be difficult, though, for a young man to move so frequently.
Born in Sherwood Park, Alta., Joseph was drafted in the fifth round by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2014.
He spent two full seasons in Lethbridge, helping the Hurricanes make the Eastern Conference final his rookie season.
But just 23 games into last year, Lethbridge flipped him to the Regina Pats. Joseph’s time there was brief, and 13 games later he was headed to the Vancouver Giants.
Vancouver was a great landing spot, and the Giants reached Game 7 of the Western Conference before losing in overtime to the Prince Albert Raiders.
Joseph called it a “surreal” experience, “especially a team like PA and the fans they have. It was pretty crazy to be able to play in that atmosphere. Through every playoff experience I’ve been through, I’ve learned so much. I hope I can bring that here and help the guys moving forward,” he said. “That was something I will always cherish from last year.”
Joseph can also contribute offensively. He scored 10 goals and 18 assists in 32 games last year for Vancouver. In the playoffs, Joseph added 12 points (7G, 5A) in 22 games.
He made his Rockets debut on Tuesday in a 1-0 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings. Joseph and the Rockets will take on the Prince George Cougars (6-16-2) tonight at Prospera Place.
Before the loss to Edmonton, the Rockets had won four straight.
You can expect Joseph to be more involved tonight with a full week of practice under his belt.
He said the Rockets are the first team that’s drawn up a playbook, which has helped his arrival on a new club.
Joseph is also accustomed to this by now. He said that’s another bright spot of getting traded: you learn quickly.
When he was traded from Lethbridge to Regina, it took more adjustment after playing on the same team for 2 1/2 seasons.
“You never think anything is going to change,” he said. “You’re just so focused on what you’ve learned before. … Honestly, it helps your IQ with hockey. It’s not too bad.”
The more difficult aspects are off the ice.
“It can be a challenge, just always having to meet new guys,” Joseph said. “You finally make a core friend group and then you’re saying goodbye to make a new one. But, honestly, I’ve got a lot of contacts in my phone, now. You make a lot of friends, that’s for sure.”
There is that honesty and optimism again. Joseph said he’s equally optimistic about Kelowna.
“Vancouver was an amazing place to go, just the run we were able to have and how good we were,” he said. “Every place I’ve gone, I’ve learned something to help my career moving forward. Now I’m here, and honestly it’s a blessing to be in Kelowna.”
Prince George (6-16-2, 5th B.C.) at Kelowna (13-8-3, 2nd B.C.)
Tonight, Prospera Place, 7 p.m. (AM1150)
Kelowna is 3-1 against P.G. this season; P.G. has won two straight, both at home over the Kamloops Blazers.
Rockets to watch:
Tonight’s game is Teddy Bear Toss Night, and F Mark Liwiski scored the Rockets’ first goal last year against Saskatoon.
G Roman Basran stopped 27 shots against Edmonton, and hasn’t lost in regulation his past four starts. He was named WHL goalie of the week for Nov. 17-23.
Cougars to Watch:
F Vladislav Mikhalchuk, 20, hasn’t played against the Rockets since he returned from the KHL in Russia earlier this month.
D Rhett Rhinehart picked up two assists against the Rockets the last time they met. Four of the defenceman’s 10 points this season have come against Kelowna.