The discovery, subsequent rise, and future of Josh Jooris

Why didn’t Josh Jooris get drafted, anyway? He’s got the bloodline, but he never even ended up in the OHL. His two years in the OJHL, instead, seem somewhat reflective of how his professional career has progressed: from respectable numbers one year, to what-the-heck happened the next. 

Putting up 116 points in 50 games in a lesser junior league at 19 years old is good, but not exactly an indication of an NHL player. After all, he and his teammate Greg Carey dominated the league that year, and Carey’s in the ECHL right now. 

Jooris played three years at Union College, and attended a different NHL team’s prospect camp each season: first with the Boston Bruins, then the Vancouver Canucks; and finally, he decided to leave school once the Calgary Flames offered him a contract. 

That’s when an okay AHL season gave way to a promising training camp gave way to… something else entirely.

A top 15 rookie scorer

Johnny Gaudreau, he most certainly is not. At 24, Jooris skews towards the older spectrum of what the NHL defines as a rookie, but he’s still a rookie: one who has 12 goals and 10 assists for a total of 22 points. That puts him at a tie with three other rookies – two of whom are his age – in rookie scoring at 15th. 

It’s a pretty big feat for someone who, previously, wasn’t exactly given a ton of thought. He had the distinction of being a right shooter in an organization filled with mostly lefties, and that was about it. A surprising training camp gave way to his first call-up, his first NHL game, and in a nice moment, his first NHL goal in that same instance. 

Nice moments don’t make careers, though. For all we knew, it was a prolonged hot streak. A good one, and one that showed he was capable in the NHL in at least that moment, but not necessarily an indication of the beginning of a legitimate NHL player. 

The basic numbers were certainly there, though. In a year that has seen the Flames filled with rookies at varying stages of development, Jooris is the only one other than Gaudreau to have stuck: and rightfully so.

A relative positive

The Flames are a poor possession team this season. No regulars are at 50%; nobody frequent has managed to so much as break even in shot attempts. If you’re on the Flames, the puck is less on your stick and more on the opposition’s, no matter who you are.

Jooris isn’t someone you have to worry about, though. He’s second out of all regulars in corsi for at 47.0%. Only Mark Giordano tops him; though TJ Brodie probably would, too, if he hadn’t been forced to trade in for an inferior defence partner. Mikael Backlund, he who is much revered for being one of the better Flames possession-wise since pretty much forever, is right nearby as well. And Jooris beats Gaudreau in possession.

Not in scoring, obviously, and there’s a pretty big distinction between the two. But possession-wise, Jooris has held his own on a not-great team.

The distinction? Backlund plays substantially harder minutes. Gaudreau has been much more sheltered throughout his rookie year, put in just the right place to help him put up his impressive point totals. Jooris falls somewhere in between: receiving overall favourable zone starts, but nothing nearly as high as one of the league’s leading rookie scorers (nor his veteran linemate in the midst of his first-ever 60-point season, for that matter). He also hasn’t played anything as difficult as what Backlund, just two years his senior, has had to face.

It’s a good sign overall, though. And even earlier in the season, when he wasn’t receiving as sheltered zone starts, Jooris was still one of the Flames’ better possession players.

In short, he’s capable. We only have 50-odd games to go off of, all part of a season that seemed to come out of nowhere, but we’re past the “flash in a pan” status. This wasn’t just the run of a a good training camp; this was the beginning of a legitimate NHL career.

Spreading the love

Jooris hasn’t really had any set linemates this season. There was the time when Backlund was still injured, forcing Sean Monahan to do the heavy lifting and putting Jooris in place to centre Gaudreau and Hudler (and sure enough, they’re two of his most common linemates), but that’s about it. While the Flames appear to have two clearly set lines now, things were much more jumbled in the first half of the season.

His best performances have come between Gaudreau and Hudler – and he was definitely a beneficiary of their sheltered zone starts during their time together – but it’s not as if he brought either player down. Their possession stats have been about the same as Jooris’ when separated. 

And Jooris has really only brought his most common linemates up. Any forward he’s played over 100 minutes with – Gaudreau, Colborne, Hudler, Raymond, and Glencross – has done better with Jooris down their middle. Colborne and Raymond have been the weakest of these five, but Jooris’ presence has brought them both up 3-4%. With the other three, suddenly, they’re positive possession.

Other players on the Flames who tend to not be the greatest scorers, but boost their teammates? Byron. Backlund. Jooris isn’t doing it at quite their level, but he’s also two years younger and a rookie. And while Byron seems to be one of the few he doesn’t quite gel with, there could be a real possibility with Backlund. There’s been some experimentation with playing the two together in recent games, and while it’s only been about 30 minutes, it’s worth noting that together, they’ve put up a 64.6% CF. With sub-optimal 45.5% offensive zone starts. On a garbage possession team.

If it turns out there’s something there, then a Backlund-Jooris combination could be incredibly stabilizing. Maybe neither ends up being a high scorer like Gaudreau, like Monahan, like Sam Bennett is looking he’ll be; but it’s entirely possible the Flames have found the backbones of their real shutdown line when they’re ready to contend. 

What’s next?

Overlooked until his junior year at college, Jooris has ended up being a legitimate NHL player, after all, and someone who’s found a home in Calgary. He fills a need: while the Flames have centres everywhere, he’s a right-shooter, which they are lacking in. So Jooris may find himself on the wing more often than not next season, but easily capable of filling in down the middle if necessary.

His zone starts will probably get harder. Paul Byron went from a +.4% relative offensive zone start ratio in his rookie season to -5.3% this season. With that, Jooris’ possession stats may drop, just as Byron’s did; on the other hand, they may go up depending on who he slots in beside (Backlund as a regular, for instance, would probably improve him, as Backlund kind of does that to just about everybody) and how much the Flames improve over the off-season.

Jooris is shooting at 14.6%, so his scoring may go down; however, if he continues to find himself right in front of the net, well, he’s shown some pretty good hands to capitalize in goalmouth scrambles. At the same time, he’ll probably start shooting more next season, so he may be able to keep his numbers up after all.

At minimum, Jooris is looking more and more like a positive possession guy who only benefits his teammates and is skilled enough to chip in on the scoring. That’s a pretty good find for an undrafted college kid who just took a little longer to make it.

  • Derzie

    Jooris is a great surprise. His Corsi-friendly results and age make him a ‘just what we need’ for depth as we grow. He & Byron have been the most pleasant surprises for me. Their playing style is basically the DNA of this team. Perfect soldiers for Hartleys system.

  • Nick24

    Although by the looks of it he may have had a rather mediocre rookie year in the AHL, I remember Troy Ward saying that Jooris played a really big role on the team. He was a guy who would play any where in the line up, and had a lot of defensive responsibilities. He was even saying that Jooris would be one of the players he would of recommended for a call-up. I’m glad to see that he turned into a good player at the NHL level.

  • Burnward

    I wanna see this by the end of next season:

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Shore (Balanced scoring line)
    Poirier-Backlund-Jooris (Pure shutdown line)
    Granlund-Bennett-Hudler (Sniper Line)
    Bouma-Arnold-Byron (Energy line)
    The right amount of Colborne
    Plenty of Ferland
    Plenty of Wolf
    A bit of Jankowski
    A bit of Klimchik

    Giordano-Brodie
    Russell-Morrison
    Wotherspoon-Wideman

    Dubnyk
    Ortio