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Shane Doan always encouraged his son, Josh, to blaze his own trail. The family was an unfailing source of advice and support, but after instilling a core set of values, the focus for Shane and Andrea was to craft a self-reliant man.
“Shane will tell you that Josh has made his own decisions every step of the way,” said Greg Powers, who coached Josh at Arizona State the past two seasons. “Back in the day, Josh would have gone to Kamloops (Shane played there and now owns part of the team) when he was 17 and not to the Chicago Steel, but Josh has calculated his career in such an effective way and he has such a great inner confidence that he’s going to get it done.”
While others expressed shock, concern or doubt when Josh elected to turn pro after his sophomore season at ASU, the guy with the greatest understanding of that decision never wavered.
“I think that the biggest deciding factor was being comfortable and being able to trust that I would be able to compete at a higher level,” Josh said. “That was one of the biggest components for me and my family: If you’re able to compete at a higher level then go push and challenge yourself. Don’t sit back and wait for what you think might be a better scenario. Push the limits to allow yourself to excel and to continue to develop.”
Josh didn’t know if he would be able to translate his game to the pro level when he arrived in Tucson late last season. The team was making a playoff push so he was jumping onto a fast-moving and tightly run ship with little prior knowledge of the crew and processes.
A few factors worked in his favor, however. He had plenty of NHL alumni such as his dad and family friend Tyson Nash who provided a road map for early success. Roadrunners veterans Adam Cracknell and Boko Imama took him under their wings and allowed him “to just settle in.” That process was made all the easier because Josh has his dad’s trademark blue-collar approach to the game, and the Roadrunners coach, Steve Potvin, coached Josh as a kid with the Jr. Coyotes.
“Pots told me that being myself was going to be the key; to play my game and trust my instincts and use my strengths and just be competitive and hard on pucks,” Josh said. “He wanted me to focus on playing a hard style before focusing too much on trying to make a cute play or a nice attempt at net. He told me: ‘Just play a simple game until you get comfortable and then once you get comfortable you can slowly start to get the rest of your game figured out.'”
In 14 games with the Roadrunners, Doan had three goals, six points and a plus-two rating, but statistics were a small part of Potvin’s evaluation.
“To carry around the [Doan] name and the legacy is a tough thing for a young man, but he was able to gel right away with his teammates so you know right away he understands how to communicate with them; he understands the process,” Potvin said.
“It sounds like clichés, but if you really show up every day, and you just try to leave your jersey in a better place, you’re gonna be fine. He’s a player that did that. I think he respected the level and he wanted to prove that he can play.”
Josh also took Potvin’s on-ice advice to heart.
“What I liked about Josh’s game the most was his competitiveness,” Potvin said. “When you look at him and you get to know him, you may not think that that’s at the forefront, but I felt like he was very competitive and he wanted to get better and he just made us better.”
Getting better is the focus for Josh this summer. For the next few weeks, that will happen in British Columbia near the family’s summer compound in the Shuswap. Josh is working with Greg Kozoris, who trained Shane for about two decades.
“He started training me back when I was just a little fella so he knows he knows my body and my strengths and weaknesses more than anyone else,” Josh said.
Skating and strength are two main areas of focus.
“Right now, I’m at 200 pounds for the first time in my life so it’s a little bit different from 155 four years ago,” he said, laughing. “It’s all a huge experiment, trying to find the right weight.
“As far as the skating, the stride and the edge work was never really an issue for me. It was being strong enough and explosive enough to create power out of my stride. We always focused on just getting leg strength and getting stronger in that sense where I can become more powerful. Hopefully, those two things come together and allow me to catch up in terms of skating, which I feel like I’ve done in the last couple of years anyway.”
Josh has never worried about playing in the long shadow that Shane cast over Arizona hockey, but for the first time in his life, that shadow is not following him around every corner. While Shane will still be in Arizona often, his new job as a special advisor to Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving will keep him in Toronto or on the road a fair amount of the season.
“It’s weird for all of us, but having Brad there made a big difference,” Josh said. “They’ve had a good relationship since Brad left [Arizona] and they’ve always kept in touch. They’ve always talked about doing something like this together, wherever it is, and it then ended up being in Toronto so I’m super excited for him because it’s something that he’s wanted to do is to get involved with hockey ops and be around a group of guys. He misses the game so it’s something that’ll bring him back in a little bit.
“I think the draft was the first day it really hit him that things were going to be different when he was not at that table with the Coyotes. But at the end of the day, he is still dad and he’ll still care about the Coyotes as much as anyone. Partially because I’m there, he’ll be paying attention to everything going on in Arizona and in Tucson. I’ll still get phone calls or visits from him and we’ll talk hockey as we usually do.”
If all goes according to plan, part of that discussion will focus on Josh’s first NHL action.
“There’s a few things on my checklist but at the top of that checklist is to get NHL games this season; to prove that I’m ready and capable of playing at that level,” he said. “I want to show up to camp and make it a hard decision for them to keep or get rid of me; not be someone that’s easy to push away.
“I want to be a guy that could bring in a little bit of energy for the group and just kind of be a sponge my first year at the main camp to learn from some of the guys that they have. It’s still a goal of mine to be a part of that team this year. Whether that’s at the beginning of the year, halfway through the year or at the end of the year, that’s my goal.”
Josh Doan photo credits: Kate Dibildox, Tucson Roadrunners