The theme of the 2017 NHL Draft for the Calgary Flames was untapped offensive talent. Following the event, head amateur scout Tod Button used the phrase “high ceiling” to describe the offensive potential of several of their new players, and few embody that approach more than Baie-Comeau Drakkar winger D’Artagnan Joly.
Drafted a year ago as a big-bodied forward with high hopes, he’s already started to make some noise for his QMJHL club.
A product of Gatineau, Quebec who came up playing high-end hockey in his hometown, Joly is one of several hockey-playing brothers – older brother Raphael is signed in the Germany third league while another older brother, Michael, has a deal with the American Hockey League’s Colorado Eagles.
Joly’s 2015-16 season saw him bounce between the midget level QMAAA and the QMJHL, and experience a mid-season trade that swapped him from his hometown Gatineau Olympique to the Drakkar. His draft season in 2016-17 saw him find some stability and consistency, as he tripled his points-per-game (from 0.211 to 0.727) and found himself drafted by the Flames in the sixth round of the NHL Draft.
This past season, Joly found himself without the “Will I get drafted?” pressure and focused on his game. His offense jumped again to over a point-per-game (1.236 per game to be precise) and he established himself as one of the Drakkar’s most consistent offensive players. He doesn’t think he did much different in terms of his on-ice performances.
“Probably more the confidence level is higher,” said Joly at Flames development camp. “Having less pressure. The draft year you have a lot of pressure on your shoulders about performing every day, the scouts watch you. Now it’s just more of a process about getting better every day, working on all your weaknesses to get to the next level and to prepare for the next level. It’s just about taking and banking everything they teach you and pushing towards everyday to get better.”
Now that the pressure of the draft is behind him – and hopefully an NHL contract with the Flames, who hold his rights until June 1, 2019, is just around the corner – Joly is focused on improving any way he can. The lanky winger can still fill out physically, but he also wants to keep working on his overall game.
“I think for sure every time you step on the ice or you go in the gym, there’s always something you wanna work on because everybody has their weaknesses,” said Joly. “Not one player in the world is perfect. You always have room for improvement, just to push every day to be a better player and be a better person off the ice, too, is the one you want to focus on.”
While Joly has been third and second in team scoring, respectively, during his two full seasons with the Drakkar, he’s more focused on team goals rather than on continuing his climb up the leaderboard. All four of Baie-Comeau’s top scorers are slated to be back next season, and the club has also added import forward Yaroslav Alexeyev from Sherbrooke and new starting goalie Kyle Jessiman from Cape Breton. He thinks they’re poised for a big season.
“I think next year’s gonna be a good year for me and my team,” said Joly. “I think we have a great team to accomplish something next year, to push for maybe a championship and something like that… I think our staff back in junior did a great job bringing in good players in the summer and that’s gonna help us a lot to have a good season next year. I think we’re going in the right direction next season and we’re gonna push towards a good championship year.”
As a 1999 birthday Joly’s eligible to go pro in 2019-20, so he might be headed into his final year in the QMJHL. Based on how he’s approaching the season, he’s poised to make this year count.