Every hockey player hopes to get a shot to play professionally. It’s the dream that they are all chasing. Some players find their path straight to the NHL after having been drafted. But for many, it is a lot of hard work, dedication, and an unwillingness to give up. It is not an easy path, but any player who has taken it thinks it is worth it. Working hard for a dream makes it all that much better when the dream comes true.
A 6’1 defenseman, Derek Joslin was drafted back in 2005 in the fifth round by the San Jose Sharks while playing in the OHL with the Ottawa 67’s. He finished out his four seasons in the OHL and joined the Sharks AHL affiliate at the end of his junior seasons. However it was not until he joined the Worcester Sharks for his rookie season in 2007-2008 that he was finally successful in recording his first professional goal. However, one of his most memorable moments was probably scoring his first NHL goal with San Jose.
“It was an amazing feeling. There are a couple things you dream about growing up,” Joslin said, thinking back to his first goal. ”One is obviously making it to the NHL and winning a Stanley Cup, the other is scoring your first NHL goal.”
While he is still looking to stick in the NHL permanently and make a run for the Stanley Cup, Joslin can definitely say that his first NHL goal was not one he will forget. It came against goaltender Andrew Raycroft and the Dallas Stars during the second period on December 13, 2010. Unfortunately, San Jose lost to Dallas in a shootout. Despite that, it is something he will never forget.
“San Jose does a great job when you score your first goal,” Joslin said. “They take the puck and make it into a bit of a trophy. It has the date and the time you scored and who assisted on it. I still have that trophy back home at my parents house.”
After having been involved in the Sharks organization since the 2005 draft, it had come as a surprise when San Jose traded Joslin to the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2010-2011 season. He had made a lot of friends and was comfortable in the system. It was his first season not spending any time in the AHL, but unfortunately, he was also scratched from the line-up quite a bit. Going to Carolina, where he did not know anyone, would be a tough adjustment at first.
“It was mixed emotions. But it opened doors for me in Carolina and I got to play more regularly,” Joslin said of his feelings on the trade. “It was nice to get a fresh new start.”
During the following offseason, the Hurricanes re-signed the defenseman to a two-year deal. However, Joslin was sick at the beginning of the season and had a hard time getting back to the NHL playing level. The Hurricanes went through a mid-season coaching change that ended up getting Joslin some playing time at a different position. Though he had always been a defenceman, he earned some time filling in at forward. It was not something he expected, and probably not a role he would look to have again, but it was good experience and he tried to help the team in any way he could.
“I played a couple games up front and Kirk (Mueller) liked what he saw and I ended up playing 15-20 games as a left winger,” Joslin said. “It was a different experience. But I still think I’m more valuable as a defenseman than a forward.”
Most players probably would not expect to find themselves back with the AHL team it all started with after leaving, but that is exactly what happened for Joslin. During the summer of 2012, he signed with the Vancouver Canucks. He had spent the entire season until being traded with the Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. In an interesting move, the Canucks reassigned Joslin from Chicago to the Worcester Sharks. It is the first time he has been in teal since the 2010-2011 season. On the one hand, he had not heard any trade rumors circulating. In that sense, it was a surprise. It was not a surprise completely, though.
“I always kind of had a feeling that somewhere down the road I might end up with a Sharks jersey on again though,” Joslin said of the move. “I had some good years here and left with good terms with the organization and I still talk to a lot of people in the organization. I wasn’t surprised by that part.”
Before joining the Worcester Sharks for the end of the season, Joslin skated in 53 games this season with the Chicago Wolves. He is getting a chance at an unexpected time to return to the coaching staff that shaped him at the start of his pro career. It was easier to come back to Worcester in some senses than it had been to go to Carolina. There are a few names that are still around from his last stint in Worcester, including former San Jose roommate, John McCarthy and Nick Petrecki. He is also getting a chance to play with off-season training partner, James Livingston. Having familiar faces can make all the difference in a transition, especially late in a season.
“It’s been a nice smooth transition for me because the coaching staff is all the same from when I was here before. It didn’t take me long to get refreshed with the system the Sharks play,” Joslin said. “The guys have been great. It’s the exact same system as it was when I left. So, it hasn’t taken me much to settle in.”
Even though he has settled in quickly in Worcester, he knows that he cannot get comfortable. The NHL is the ultimate goal for him and he does not see any reason to stop working towards that goal. Since his last stint in Worcester, he says that he has come a long way. He has had the chance to play with different coaches with different systems. Those different experiences have rounded him out as a player. He knows what his personal keys to success will be going forward.
“I think the key is to stay focused and not get too comfortable,” Joslin said, determinedly. “I have to make sure I work on those things and keep an open mind. I need to be ready when that opportunity does arise.”
The key is to never give up on your dreams. Being in the AHL has been fun and a great experience for Joslin. As a good two-way player, he is valuable to his team. He is a player that can be responsible in his own end but can also lend offensive help on the power plays. It seems like only a matter of time before he finds his way to the NHL again. It just takes the one team with the right system that he fits into perfectly.
Photo credit: Chicago Wolves