By Dave Frederick
There are currently a number of NHLers who are easily proving the axiom “size matters” to be completely false. From the success of Martin St-Louis to Matt Duchene, smaller, highly skilled players are making an impact. Joey Hishon is hoping to someday add his name to this growing list.
The 2010 17th overall draft pick by the Colorado Avalanche is in his fourth season with the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario League. Officially listed at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Hishon has established himself as one of the top players in the OHL, leading his team in scoring.
However, the center is intent on silencing critics who believe his lack of size may at some point become an obstacle.
“I’m generously listed at 5-foot-10,” Hishon joked. “I think for me to make up for that is my compete level has to make a difference. If a smaller guy goes into the corner with a bigger guy and loses the battle, they’ll blame it on his size. But if a bigger player loses the battle to a smaller player, they’ll never really say anything about that. If I can consistently win those battles and not get pushed around, that will be a positive thing and it’s something I have to do in order for scouts to know that size won’t be an issue with me.”
The 19-year-old Hishon was limited to just 36 games last season due to a broken foot. But he answered any potential questions about his toughness when he played through the pain for two games, scoring a shorthanded goal in the process. This fierce determination is just one of many elements that impresses the Avalanche management.
“His passion for the game is definitely his strong suit,” said Craig Billington, the Avs’ vice-president of player development. “Owen Sound is having a good year and he’s such a major part of that success and is being relied upon in many ways for it to sustain. It’s a good sign he’s having the production that he’s enjoying and also the importance of a big role he plays with the team. It’s been a real positive development in terms of growth.”
While Hishon continues to prove his physical fortitude, the Stratford, Ont., native is focusing equally on other facets of his game. Known for his elusiveness, creativity with the puck and smart vision, Hishon feels the experience he has gained in the OHL will prepare him for the next step in his progression.
“I came to Owen Sound as a 15-year old out of the OHL draft,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to play a lot of minutes and it’s been huge in terms of my development. I’ve had the same coach here in Mark Reeds since I arrived and he’s helped me out so much. When you have a coach who played in the NHL and teaches you new things, it’s not too hard to learn.”
The fact Hishon is so eager to absorb knowledge and open to advice is another important, positive characteristic of his advancement and maturity. The Avalanche view this part of his personality as an ingredient you just can’t teach.
“I think it’s all part of Joey’s continual development process,” said Billington. “One of the things I like about Joey is that he’s very coachable. He has a tremendous understanding of his own game and a strong hockey sense. Both in positives and in areas he needs to improve. He has a great willingness to learn.
“I think he has another level he’s working on to round out his game that will allow him to have success at the pro level.”
Hishon admits to feeling slightly overwhelmed when he heard his name called at the 2010 draft. So much so that his parents had to tell him to stand up and take the walk down to put on his new sweater. But he now has a clear and confident view as to what it will take to accomplish his ultimate goal.
“I think if you want to get to the NHL someday you have to visualize those things,” Hishon said. “It’s something I always catch myself dreaming about. It’s been a goal of mine my entire life and I’m definitely not going to let that change. It will always be on the back of my mind until I get there.”
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