I’m not sure if there’s a prospect who’s spot in this ranking I feel less confident about than Dakota Joshua’s. Even as I write this, I’m not sure if I’m I’m buying in on an up year, or if I’m continuing to stand in a club that isn’t giving him enough credit for what he could potentially bring as a player. 

Age 21 (May 15, 1996) Birthplace Dearborn, Michigan
Pos Centre (LH) Drafted 2014 (Rd 5, Pick 128)
Vitals 6’3, 194lbs Acquired Via Draft

Joshua is one of five players who are stuck with the unfortunate description of “drafted by the Leafs in 2014 but is not William Nylander”. The last Toronto draft before the great cupboard refillings of 2015 and 2016, the handful of Day 2 picks that Toronto did make tend to get a little less hype despite, for the most part, quietly progressing in their career arc.

In Joshua’s case, he was taken in the fifth round after a USHL season where he finished 7th in scoring for the Sioux Falls Stampede, with 38 points in 55 games. That was good for 24th in U19 points per game; not quite a Jack Eichel or Kyle Connor, but certainly respectable.

13  2009-10  Victory Honda  T1EMBHL 31 17 8 25 24
14  2010-11  Little Caesar  T1EBHL 28 12 4 16 16
15  2011-12  Honeybaked U16  HPHL U16 29 13 8 21 16
16  2012-13  Honeybaked U16  HPHL U16 18 12 10 22 18
16  USNTDP / Sioux Falls  USHL 7 3 0 3 9.5 2 -4
17  2013-14  Sioux Falls Stampede  USHL 55 17 21 38 15.3 58 6
18  2014-15  Sioux Falls Stampede  USHL 52 20 24 44 18.7 74 4
19  2015-16  Ohio State Univ.  NCAA 29 5 12 17 15.9 50 1
20  2016-17  Ohio State Univ.  NCAA 33 12 23 35 28.7 58 5

Fast forward to now, and Joshua is a key player for Ohio State University. Already coming off a relatively decent freshman year, the recently-turned 21-year-old scored a little over a point per game, finishing fourth on the team in scoring behind a trio of players two years his senior. Joshua finished 44th in the nation in U21 points per game by a forward, hovering in a tier around fellow sophomore and Vancouver Canucks top prospect Brock Boeser (who is, to his credit, a year younger).

For a more tangible frame of reference, Joshua’s point production at this age is much closer to that of Tyler Bozak and Trevor Moore than it is to Dominic Toninato and Tony Cameranesi, two prospects the Leafs opted to not give entry-level deals to over the past two seasons.

For his efforts, Joshua was named to the B1G conference’s Honourable Mention All-Star Team last season.

pGPSn pGPSs Exp. Success % Exp. P/82 Exp. Value
30 (T23/31) 11 (22/31) 43.4% (5/31) 40.5 (7/31) 17.6 (6/31)

The above numbers are products of the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS), created by Canucks Army to project a prospect’s odds of becoming an NHL regular. For a run-down on what each of these stats mean, head back to the introduction.

pGPS seems to be relatively high on Joshua. While his development path leading to this year has been a bit unorthodox, last year now sets him on the same path as a fair share of non-elite, but rather dependable NHL players. Having David Backes as a close cohort is a lot of fun, though that might be a high expectation; the Boston Bruins forward and former St. Louis Blues captain was a physical force from an early age, which helped him fast track to the NHL.

Joshua has some of those power forward-like tendencies as well, as not afraid to use his body to crash to the net, absorb a hit, or throw his own. As you can see in the video above, he’s not afraid to mix it up either; one of his missed games this year was a suspension for an end-of-game line brawl that he participated in.

It’s not quite the driving force in his game, though; more like a complementary element. Realistically, he plays like more of a two-way forward that is comfortable with supporting in board battles and holding his fort in front of the net, should he choose to venture there.

The Upcoming Year

Joshua’s minutes should go up a little further this year, thanks to the departures of Nick Schilkey and Dave Gust to the AHL. This knocks out two of the three players who were above him in scoring last year, while still leaving him a star to play with in Mason Jobst and a few surrounding names that have stuck around to keep the team above water.

Long-Term Outlook

The best thing about Joshua, which I will continue to say about every NCAA-affiliated prospect that the Leafs possess, is that they have some time to figure out what he is and make contract space as such. They won’t even have to consider signing him until 2018/19, which gives them time to make a decision, time for him to develop, and time for those competing with him in the system time to develop without having another spot to battle for.

I’m very curious to see if he can keep producing over the next couple of years. If he turns into a bonafide college star, the Leafs are likely to be pulling in an instantly NHL-ready, cost-effective depth forward upon his graduation. Considering the raises that they’re due to give in the next few years, such a player would be quite valuable to them if that time were to come.

To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.

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