Mathieu Joseph is finally getting his time in the limelight as he enters his fourth season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Over the past three seasons, Joseph has played 163 regular season games and 10 playoff games for the Lightning, almost all of them on the fourth line. He’s shown an immense talent on the rush and strong finishing, especially last year. After spending two seasons in the press-box or isolated in the bubble, it’s going to be really exciting to see him establish himself in the NHL.
Joseph has been with the Tampa Bay Lightning since he was drafted in 2015 — that’s over six years in the organization. At 24, this is his last year of eligibility on our Top 25 Under 25 list. The reason Joseph is in our top-five is twofold. One, the Lightning had to lose a lot of their bottom six due to cap restrictions over the summer. And two, he is one of the older players on our list and has the bigger expectations to perform now. That combination of roster spots opening for players who were probably way better than their spot on the depth chart (namely Joseph), and knowing how highly rated Joseph is (despite his TOI in recent years) are why he’s in ahead of folks like Foote, ABB, Katchouk, and Raddysh.
I talk about how good Joseph is, but I think it’s important that I back it up with some data. We have highlights from him, including some very exciting goals in the playoffs, but let’s go back to Joseph as a prospect and show what kind of production he can create when put in an elevated role.
PAT MAROON— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 6, 2021
WHAT A PASS BY MATHIEU JOSEPH pic.twitter.com/vdtOUOwC7v
At 19, Joseph scored 73 points in 58 QMJHL games, including going a goal-a-game in the playoffs. At 20, he tore up the league, scoring 80 points in 54 games, including 32 points in 18 playoff games. I should probably add that he lead his team in goals in the regular season and the playoffs in points while winning the QMJHL championship for good measure. I know it’s the Q, but someone had to tear it up and he did.
Moving onto pro at 21, Joseph led the Syracuse Crunch in points by a good margin over Alexander Volkov as a rookie. He finished fourth overall in AHL scoring in 2017-18, in the same conversation as Mason Appleton, Dylan Strome, and Warren Foegele. After that electric rookie year, Joseph made the Lightning and got 70 games with the team on the fourth line (with the occasional promotion to the third line). He did really well there, scoring 13 goals and 26 points on 95 shots. He was between 53-55% in shot metrics to boot, beating his competition and doing it at a high rate.
That was the end of 2019, once 2020 came around, the Lightning had gone all-in to win the Cup, acquiring Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. They pushed Joseph out of the lineup, and because of his favourable contract and waivers exemption, he was shuffled between the press box, AHL, and later Taxi Squad.
Now, two rings later, Joseph has a shot at moving up the lineup like you would’ve expected to see him do after his rookie year.
Another element to Joseph’s game is his ability to turn it on in key moments, especially the playoffs. I already told you how unreal he was in the QMJHL, and he was even a point-per-game in the AHL. His Stanley Cup experience isn’t exactly extensive, but in the minutes he’s played, he’s been great. He posted a 53% shot share, tied with Coleman and Goodrow, and 68% expected goals share. The latter is probably very skewed due to the low sample size, but at least it’s on the good side of the ledger.
Mathieu Joseph and Brayden Point team up for a beauty on the 2-on-0. pic.twitter.com/xqQUno1GfW— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) February 2, 2021
By-and-large, most of his points have come off the rush, or at least his most memorable points have. That makes sense to me since Joseph has a really good stick in the defensive zone and is always hounding the puck-carrier when they’re around him — aka well-practiced Lightning hockey. That pressure often leads to turnovers and chances the other way. Once the puck is moving back the other way, that’s when I think Joseph’s real talents come to the fore. He’s got great speed and hands that allow him to keep possession of the puck through the neutral zone. And then in the final third of the ice he can pull off some incredible passing plays that fool goalies and open up genuine tap-ins. He also has a good shot that can either beat goaltenders from mid-range or place them in the right spot to create rebounds for second chances.
With those attributes, I’m not surprised he’s scored at a high rate for a fourth liner and I won’t be surprised if he can keep up with the production pace the third line (or perhaps even second line?) will demand. Recently at training camp we’ve seen Joseph skating on the second line with Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn, with Steven Stamkos playing with Corey Perry (I know) and Ross Colton (I know!). That pair of trios will create a much more balanced middle six rather than a distinct second and third line, meaning a bigger role for Joseph. And hey, you never know what Joseph and Stamkos could create?
Like the dynamic Mathieu Joseph brings to the Stamkos line. So much speed, not only on forecheck, but it creates space for Stamkos, too. Cooper said they have an opportunity with a week left to tinker with lines, knowing what already works. #tblightning— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) April 1, 2019
#tblightning Jon Cooper said if that’s what they see from Mathieu Joseph on a regular basis at center, they’ll be very happy. Liked how he had puck on his stick more up the middle, made plays. Used his speed.— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) January 29, 2021
Tampa's on fire. Mathieu Joseph gets in on the scoring now pic.twitter.com/BloosLQa44— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) February 10, 2021
Which line will Mathieu Joseph spend most of his time on this season?
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