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Josh Doan may be the only 6-year-old in the history of humanity who wanted to get up at 5 a.m. That same determination helped the Coyotes’ now-21-year-old prospect take a quantum leap forward in his development this summer.
Doan led all Coyotes at the Rookie Faceoff in Las Vegas last month with four goals and seven points in three games. The stats were only part of what impressed Coyotes director of player development Lee Stempniak.
“His skating has really improved,” Stempniak said. “He looks faster, quicker and he’s got a great hockey sense of where players are on the ice and where to move the puck.
“He showed real competitiveness in his desire to track back, lift sticks and play physical. He was our most complete player. You can tell that he really put in the time over the summer.”
The Doans spend a good portion of their offseason at the family’s summer home in the Shuswap, a region surrounding the lake of the same name in British Columbia. The drive to Greg Kozoris’ Acceleration strength and conditioining facility in Kamloops takes about 45 minutes.
The facility has attracted plenty of NHL players over the years including former Coyotes Peter Mueller and Riley Nash, but Kozoris is a longstanding part of the Doan family lore. He started training Shane in 1999 and those sessions continued throughout the longtime Coyotes captain’s career.
Josh has known Kozoris since he was 2 years old. He has been an active participant in Kozoris’ training regimen since he was 6.
“I’d make my dad drag me with him in the mornings,” Josh said. “I wouldn’t train at that age. I would just go in and watch the guys train. We’d leave at 6:10; get there at 7 and they’d do morning sprints which they still do now.
“Kozzer would let me hold the whistle and blow the whistle and make them run when I was a little guy. Riley Nash and Brendon Nash gave me a hard time all the time, but I loved being there. I would beg my dad to take me. There’d be times where he would not wake me up to go in with him, but when I did go in it was like Christmas morning. It was the greatest week of the summer when I got to go.”
Some of the Kozoris traditions that still exist today were born under Shane Doan.
“After sprints, they’d play a full-contact soccer game that my dad would make all the young guys play,” Josh said, laughing. “And the old guys got to make up the rules as the game went along.”
When Josh turned 13 he started his own training regimen with Kozoris. That training regimen reached another level this summer, mostly because the internal cocktail in Josh Doan’s body had finally achieved the optimal mix.
“We really worked in a nerdy scientific way to find every way we could to capture and recruit every fast-twitch muscle fiber he had in his lower segment,” Kozoris said. “We wanted to make him more powerful and give him some speed.
“Single-leg skate bounding is a very good drill for hockey players. It’s that elastic recoil where his foot hits the ground, and boom, it comes off repetitively. We did all sorts of lateral stride, skate type of movements, too; weighted and then unweighted. That’s called PAP; post-activation potentiation. He responded really well to all of that and we knew he would, now that he’s got his testosterone flying. Once that started to flow, he started to look like a man, holding his muscle content and being able to use it effectively.”
Skating has long been the focus for Josh, but not in the way most outsiders think. Coyotes skating coach Lars Hepso has never really had a problem with Doan’s stride, even if he contineus to make refinements. The greater issue was drawing power and endurance from that stride.
Hepso, Coyotes High Performance Director Devin McConnell, Head Performance Coach Mitch Stewart and Assistant Performance and Reconditioning Coach Ryan Wysocki devised an offseason plan for Josh — one that they coordinated with Kozoris.
“There were not a lot of upper-body days this summer,” Josh said, laughing. “A majority of it was lower body and getting my legs either strengthened on one day or working on power the next day.
“Kozzer loves to bring the pain but he makes it so much fun to come into the gym every day. His big slogan is ‘100 percent effort, no excuses.’ When you go in there, he doesn’t care how you’re feeling; if you’re sore or not. It’s not going to be a day off. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why I feel good this camp and into the year.”
The Doan plan
The Coyotes recently re-assigned Doan to the Tucson Roadrunners, their American Hockey Lague affiliate. Some fans weren’t happy about that decision after his preseason performance, but the Coyotes are playing the long, more educated development game with their 2021 second-round (No. 37) pick. They are unanimous in their belief that Tucson is the best spot for Doan, who just turned pro after his sophomore season at Arizona State this past spring.
“This is perfect for him,” coach André Tourigny said. “There’s no rush to be in the NHL. When you’re ready you get there and there’s nothing that can stop you. He needs to keep building himself as a pro player. There’s a difference between doing it in a week or two-week span and doing it every day. He needs to do it every day.
“I have no doubt he is capable of doing it but now it will be a different stage of his career in the sense that it’s pros. The day you don’t do it, you pay the price way more than when you’re in college or junior. He will have peaks and valleys and he needs to deal with both the right way.”
Kozoris thinks there is plenty room for growth in Doan’s game.
“Wait and see this kid in a couple of years,” he said. “He’s well over 6 feet. He’s 197 pounds. We’ve got to trigger that in his brain and make sure he’s got all those neural pathways refined. Once he gets that, you wait and see the product that this kid’s gonna be. He was absolutely a late bloomer in terms of his growth, but he was never a late bloomer neurologically; intelligence wise. His hockey IQ is unbelievable and now he has the body to add to it.”
Josh is taking that growth mindset to Tucson, where Roadrunners coach Steve Potvin expects him to be a team leader and team bonder, helping shepherd players such as his new roommate, Maksymilian Szuber, through the adjustment and growth process.
“This situation right now is definitely a positive for me and I’m not taking anything for granted,” Doan said. “I enjoyed what I learned in the preseason and with the NHL group. I got to see what it’s like to play at that level with those guys and what their days are like. It takes a little bit of that edge off of worrying about what those days could be like down the road.
“But when you get back down here, the group of guys here is so awesome. They allow you to develop and grow as a player, but also as a person. The coaching staff here has your best interests in mind and when you get sent down to a team that has a really good squad; a team that’s looking to win it, it makes it a little bit easier because you know you’re going down there to win and the guys are going to push each other. I’m thrilled to be back down here with these guys and I can’t wait to get started.”
Top photo courtesy of Tucson Roadrunners
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