The Canucks’ need for puck-moving defencemen has been well-established. They addressed that need in the first round of the draft, selecting Quinn Hughes 7th overall, but do you know what’s better than one puck-moving defenceman?
Two puck-moving defencemen.
Or really, six puck-moving defencemen. The more puck-moving defencemen the better. I hear moving the puck is a pretty important part of hockey. If you can’t move the puck, what are you even doing on the ice? Did someone super-glue the puck down or something? That seems like a bad idea.
At next week’s prospect development camp, the Canucks will get a closer look at one of the NCAA’s best puck-moving defencemen from last season, as Josh Teves will be an invitee.
Josh Teves – Left Defence
6’0″ – 180 lbs – Feb 18, 1995 (23)
Princeton University Tigers (31-7-26-33)
Princeton was one of the best teams in college hockey this past year, winning the ECAC Championship. Teves was the top-scoring defenceman on the team, scoring at a better-than point-per-game pace.
Teves finished the season with 7 goals and 33 points in 31 games. That led all NCAA defencemen in points per game and he was also first in assists per game.
His excellent Junior season has put him on the radar of several NHL teams, though he’s expected to return to Princeton for his Senior year. Teves has a very good reason for wanting to complete his degree in mechanical engineering after volunteering with people with special needs while he was in high school.
"I want to make life easier for people through innovations on things that make everyday things simpler,” said Teves before his freshman year. “I think volunteering and working with people with challenges has definitely opened my horizons and shown me different perspectives on life that may have contributed to those aspirations.”
Teves has always maintained a dual focus on hockey and education, earning the RBC National Junior A Scholarship back in 2015. That might explain why he is a self-proclaimed “late bloomer.”
"I went to a really academic-focused school in Calgary and it wasn't until later in life that I got into more competitive hockey,” he said. “I was cut from teams plenty of times, which made me just push that much harder to play at that high level.”
“Late bloomer” is certainly an apt description. In his draft year, Teves was still playing Midget AAA hockey in the Alberta Midget Hockey League. He played just one season in Junior A as a 20-year-old, putting up 33 points in 57 games for the Merritt Centennials in the BCHL.
“It is such a neat story because he hasn't always been the top recruit or the best prospect,” said Centennials head coach Luke Pierce. “He is a late-bloomer and nothing has been easy for him. He had to take the back roads to get to where he is and at the end of the day he reached the level he always wanted.”
Pierce also praised Teves for his character, both on and off the ice.
“Although Josh boasts many talents as a hockey player, it is his work ethic and determination that set him apart,” he said. “He will be a very difficult asset to replace in Merritt, not only on the ice but in our dressing room and in our community.”
In his three years at Princeton, Teves has truly started to shine on the ice. He’s a smooth-skating defenceman capable of making plays at both ends of the ice, as he demonstrated on one play during his freshman year.
Late in the third period of a 3-3 tie, a puck sent towards the Princeton goal took a deflection and was bouncing towards the wide-open net. Teves made an incredible save, diving from seemingly out of nowhere to sweep the puck out of the crease.
He stayed with the play, stole the puck behind the net, and took it the other way. After a quick give-and-go in the neutral zone, Teves carried the puck in on a 2-on-1 and rifled the puck short side past the goaltender.
That’s simply an incredible sequence. Teves, in the space of twenty seconds, provided a two-goal swing for the Tigers.
That was one of just two goals Teves would score as a freshman, finishing with 7 points in 31 games, but he took a big step forward in his sophomore season. His 25 points in 34 games led all Tigers defencemen by a wide margin, as he stepped up as the power play quarterback.
As a Junior, he’s been one of the best defencemen in college hockey.
“Teves always had his head up, and whipped passes with both accuracy and authority,” said one scouting report. “You can easily forget that this kid is a defensemen judging by the way he skates and handles the puck.”
Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey describes Teves as a “slick skater, with good speed in both directions, and excellent pivots and crossovers.” That skating helps Teves both offensively and defensively, as he can close gaps and skate the puck out of the defensive zone, but also jump up in the rush on the attack.
You can see his ability to rush the puck in this highlight video from his season with the Centennials.
His best asset, however, is his ability to pass the puck, both in transition and in the offensive zone.
“He has already set the single-season assist record by a defenseman at Princeton,” said head coach Ron Fogarty. “He is a heck of a player and he thrives in what we try to teach.”
What they teach is an aggressive, puck-moving style that demands defencemen skate well and join the attack. “We want the defensemen to jump up and provide a third wave of offense,” said Fogarty, and that fits Teves’s game to a T.
“Our whole style is to jump into holes and create offense," said Teves. "We have been given a lot of space and opportunities, as defencemen, to jump into the rush and jump into plays. Obviously, playing with some pretty special forwards, they make it easy. If you give them the puck, they make you look good and it is a lot of fun.”
While Teves has a dynamic offensive game, he’s also strong defensively. Princeton depends on him to shut down top forwards and play big minutes in all situations.
“A guy like [Teves] has the ability to make up for others' mistakes and get pucks chipped out,” said Princeton goaltender Ryan Ferland. “He is great to have back there."
“He is strong positionally and has a quick stick,” said Ben Kerr, but notes that he “must improve his size and strength to succeed in the professional game.”
Teves is 6’0” and 180 lbs, so he’s not extremely undersized by any means, but perhaps he could use a little bulking up to play in the NHL. One more year at Princeton, with some extra time spent in the weight room, might help.
Altogether, Teves seems like a great potential pickup for the Canucks, even if it comes next year instead of this one. Heck, that might be even better, as the Canucks might have more room on the blue line to entice Teves to sign. Alex Edler and Michael Del Zotto’s contracts will be off the books, and it’s possible that Ben Hutton and Derrick Pouliot, who will both be RFAs after next season, will be out as well.
At that point, Teves will be 24, which should be the prime of his career. If he continues his upward trajectory, he should be ready to step directly into an NHL lineup. It will be intriguing to see how he performs and whether the Canucks are willing and able to sign him.