By @MichaelCaples –
Dakota Joshua wasn’t at the NHL Draft to hear his name called by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In fact, he wasn’t even in front of a TV to witness it live.
“I was in the car on the way to a family member’s house to watch the rest of the draft, actually,” said Joshua, a Dearborn native. “So I did not get to hear my name called, I just found out from a phone call from Toronto, and that was it.
“I was so excited and, just, overwhelmed, I don’t even remember the guy’s name that I talked to.”
Joshua, a forward with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League, was selected by the Maple Leafs in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft, at No. 128 overall.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” Joshua said. “It’s something I’ve obviously dreamed of as a little kid, to make it and get drafted in the NHL, and then to be drafted by such a great organization made it that much better.”
The Michigan product who played for Honeybaked before making the jump to the USHL said that he’s fairly familiar with the Leafs, since they’re one of his “go-to” teams in the NHL ’14 video game.
“I mean, I love to use them in NHL on the Xbox,” Joshua said. “I wasn’t actually a big fan of Leafs, but obviously they’re an Original Six team so I know a lot about them. Nazem Kadri is a good player and I love to watch him play, so yeah, I was definitely a Wings fan until yesterday when I got picked by the Maple Leafs. That changed pretty quickly, and now we’re rivals, so, I’m OK with that.”
The Ohio State commit recently completed his first season of juniors, and he admitted that it wasn’t the smoothest of transitions for the 18-year-old.
“At first, it was a little hard and difficult to crack the lineup and I had a rough time keeping up with the pace,” Joshua said. “As the games went on, I felt more comfortable, and then just with experience, I started to come out of my shell. After the Christmas break, I really hit the ground running and took off and had an excellent second half of the season and got a lot of opportunities to show my skills.”
Joshua ended up recording 17 goals and 21 assists for 38 points in 55 games during his first season with the Stampede.
“It was a little different for me going from midget minor up to the USHL, so, everybody was a lot stronger and a lot faster, but once I caught on to the pace, just how fast the game was played, it seemed to be a lot easier for me.”
He describes himself as a power forward who has the ability to play in any situation on the ice.
“I’m a big forward that has more skill than I guess I would say a typical power forward, but I do know how to use my size,” Joshua said. “I like to base my game and think that I play my game a lot like a Jordan Staal, who just plays in every situation on the ice, whether it’s penalty kill or power play or just five-on-five. I’m good in every zone, and I think that helps me out a lot.”
Joshua expects to spend another season in the USHL before making the jump to the Big Ten. He said he’s excited to join the Buckeyes in the future.
“I got passed up by the Michigan schools, and the Buckeyes were talking to me consistently,” Joshua said. “It’s a place that’s close to home, so my family can come watch me play, and it’s in the Big Ten, so I know that I’m going up against great competition every night, and it was just a good overall fit for me.”
For now, however, he’s focused on getting ready for his first development camp as a member of the Leafs’ organization.
“I’m more nervous at this point right now, hopefully the butterflies go away as I get closer to it,” Joshua said of heading to the team development camp, which will take place on July 6-11. “Just thinking about it right now, I’m pretty nervous, because everything’s happening so quickly, but I think I’ll be ready to go once it’s time to start playing hockey.”