Avalanche: Joey Hishon Will Look To Impress In Camp


Joey Hishon Bio

Congratulations folks, and Happy Labor Day! We’ve made it to September, and in hockey speak, that doesn’t mean the flowers are blooming yet. However, now that we have left the doldrums of August, we will begin to see the sprouts of a new season poking up. One of the story-lines I am intrigued by heading into training camp is Joey Hishon.

Avalanche Key Dates Training Camp: Sept 19-20. Burgundy/White Gm: Sept 21. Preseason Opener: Sept 22.

Hishon was drafted by Colorado with the 17th overall selection in the 2010 draft, a bit of a head-scratcher considering his final Central Scouting rating was 55th. Rick Pracey, and the rest of the Avs scouting staff saw something they liked, and were eager to snag the center, giving them a trio of promising center-iceman under the age of 20 (Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, and Hishon). Hishon’s low ranking was heavily influenced by a broken foot and MCL sprain during the 2009-10 season. The Avs probably focused more on Hishon’s previous year, a season in which he was selected to play in the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) All-Star Classic. Joey was named Best Playmaker and Best Stickhandler in the Western Conference by his rival coaches.

During the 2010-11 season, Hishon led the Owen Sound Attack in scoring with 37 goals and 50 assists over 50 games. Hishon the Magician continued his brilliance in the playoffs, and was instrumental in leading his squad to an OHL championship. His strong performance during the season earned him a 3-year entry level contract with the Avalanche. Avs fans were no longer scratching their heads at the Avs for going off the board in drafting Hishon. They were scratching a different itch… an itch to see Hishon don the burgundy and blue.

Major Setback and Road to Recovery

Unfortunately, Hishon hit a major bump in the road in his path to the majors. During the 2011 Memorial Cup, a year end tournament featuring the best Canadian junior team in each of the four leagues, Hishon took an illegal elbow to the head from Brayden McNabb.

The hit was brutal, and Hishon missed the rest of the Memorial Cup with a concussion. News got worse, as he struggled with post-concussion syndrome, keeping him out of hockey for 22 months. I have a soft spot for athletes who battle head injuries, having undergone a major head trauma myself growing up. I have first-hand experience with the recovery process, and how slow and frustrating recovering from a head injury is. Hishon has my utmost respect for this reason, and is a guy I really am rooting for.

Hishon made is professional debut with the Lake Erie Monsters, an Avalanche affiliate based in Cleveland, on March 19, 2013.  Over nine games with the Monsters Hishon picked up his first professional goal as well as five assists, before suffering another concussion.

Last season, Hishon got through a full year without any noggin issues! A sign of optimism for his future in the NHL. Due to the Avs injury problems in the playoffs, Hishon made his NHL debut in the heated series with the Wild. He played three games in the series, and even tallied a key assist in go-ahead goal Jamie McGinn goal in game 7.

“It’s something you dream of your entire life. To get the opportunity to play in the NHL, it doesn’t matter what stage it’s on — regular season, playoffs.” -Joey Hishon

History has shown that head injuries are a very fickle. Players such as former Avalanche forward Peter Mueller have had their careers slowed by concussion issues. Marc Savard has had his career cut short after a cheap shot by Matt Cooke, and Savard still battles with the effects of post-concussion syndrome to this day.

There have been success stories, such as Bruins all-star center Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron also missed a significant chunk of time with a concussion keeping him out of the majority of the 2007-08 season. He was able to resume his career, and is now one of the premiere forwards in the league, especially on the defensive side of the game. Hopefully Hishon can follow in the footsteps, or ice tracks, of Bergeron, and have a long successful career. Hishon had this to say after making his NHL debut last year – “I always had hope I would get better and be able to play the game and perform at a high level. I always believed in myself, and I guess that’s paid off now.”

Season Outlook

Hishon will look to impress Patrick Roy and Co. in training camp, and secure his spot on the Avalanche for the upcoming season. One of the downfalls of the Avs in last year’s playoff run was a lack of depth at forward, particularly skilled forwards who could provide an offensive spark. Injuries to Matt Duchene, John Mitchell, and pseudo forward d-man hybrid Tyson Barrie highlighted this fact.

The Avs made some moves to address their depth issues, by bringing in veterans Daniel Briere and Jarome Iginla, as well as adding depth forward Jesse Winchester. However, they lost Paul Stastny and PA Parenteau, and also missed out on prospect Kevin Hayes, a player they heavily pursued after he recently became an unrestricted free agent. Hishon can certainly earn his way onto this roster, especially if he outshines guys like Cody McLeod and Marc-Andre Cliche, or if it becomes apparent that Briere doesn’t have much left in the tank.

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Last season, the Avs started off with three high powered offensive lines. Duchene centered O’Reilly and Downie, Stastny played with Landeskog and Tanguay, and MacKinnon held down the third line with Parenteau and McGinn. Having three lines who provide an offensive threat is needed to be an elite team in the NHL, and the Avs came out of the gate like gangbusters rolling off a 12-1 record.

I think a major reason for this success is the fact that the Avs put three lines on the ice each night that could score, and put pressure on the opposing defense. Teams had a hard time picking who to slow down, and if they did manage to slow a line or even two lines down, the other line probably got them.

After Downie was traded and Tanguay was lost to injury, MacKinnon was moved up to play with Landeskog and Stastny, a potent line to be sure, but the Avs lost the three-pronged attack which served them so well over the first month of the season. They were solid the rest of the way, but never were able to replicate the stretch of hockey they played over the first 13 games.

Joey Hishon is not Nathan MacKinnon, this much is obvious. However, putting him in the same role MacKinnon had at the start of last season as third line center is the way to go in my opinion. Hishon gives the Avs their best chance of having three dynamic scoring lines. Hishon is a bit on the small side, but is described as an offensive spark-plug, who plays with a bit of a scrappy edge. Mitchell and Talbot are serviceable hockey players, but do not have the offensive upside that Hishon can bring.

Hishon has overcome a lot to get to this point. He is on the verge of making his mark, and I’m not only hopeful he is able to, I believe that if he does, it will greatly benefit the Avalanche next year.