After Stint With Vancouver Canucks Last Winter, PU Grad Teves Hungry to Earn NHL Roster Spot
CAN DO: Josh Teves, left, helps goalie Austin Shaw hold the fort in a game last winter for the Princeton University men’s hockey team. Star defenseman and team captain Teves ended up signing with the Vancouver Canucks after wrapping up his Princeton career. Teves made his NHL debut on March 26 in a 5-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Next month, Teves heads to training camp where he will look to earn a spot on the Canucks roster. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
Josh Teves would have been fine with delaying the start of his professional ice hockey career, but now he’s grateful for the experience gained at the end of last winter.
Three days after the defending ECAC Hockey champion Princeton University men’s ice hockey team lost 6-5 in triple overtime to Brown on March 9 to fall in an ECACH first round series, star defenseman Teves signed with the Vancouver Canucks. On March 26, he made his NHL debut for the Canucks in a 5-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
“It was a crazy experience,” said Teves, a 6’0, 180-pound native of Calgary, Alberta, reflecting on his first taste of NHL action.
“I don’t know how to put it into words. The guys were all super supportive and everyone’s really excited for you. Obviously they’ve all been in that position before and know how important it is in your career and it’s something you’ve been working for. And then to have some family in the crowd as well was pretty special. The guys just said to try to take it all in and enjoy it. You only get one first game so I was just trying to enjoy it. That first shift, for sure, there’s a lot of nerves and my first game overall there’s a lot of nerves so it is just trying to settle in and take it all in. Playing in front of the home crowd there in Vancouver and the Canadian market and a historic team was pretty special.”
Now Teves is trying to take his brief NHL stint at the end of the year and use it to stick with the Canucks, who signed him to a two-year, two-way deal that makes it likely he’ll spend time this winter with their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Utica Comets.
“I went to Vancouver for about three weeks and played in one game and went on a couple of road trips and just had the experience of seeing what pro hockey and, specifically at the NHL level, is all about,” said Teves.
“I saw how players and the staff conduct themselves and the amount of work that goes into it, the professionalism that goes into it. It was an eye-opening experience and something that I hope to take into next year and some years down the road. It was a really exciting time and pretty special. Not a lot of guys get to go play professional after college, let alone in the midst of also finishing up a college semester. I called it a little vacation of pro hockey away from school.”
Teves wasn’t looking to jump into the pro game last year as he had hoped the Tigers would make another run to the ECACH title.
“I wasn’t that mentally prepared for it, the way that ended in triple overtime” said Teves, who served as Princeton’s team captain last winter.
“The next day we got back to campus pretty late at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning after the game. I had to get up on Sunday and start really thinking about the process and talk to my adviser at the time and we started doing some calls and looking at option. It was kind of a quick turnover from fighting for a championship to starting to think about where I’d be going and signing and preparing to move on to pro hockey. So definitely a bit of a whirlwind and the next few days were kind of nerve-wracking and stressful as we were just trying to figure out where I was going to land at the next step.”
Having earned All-Ivy League, All-ECACH, and All-American honors during his Princeton career, Teves put together the resume to earn an early shot at the NHL. The 24-year-old had four years of college experience and a year of junior hockey; that age and experience got him on the ice for the Canucks.
“I think I was more mature and my game was a bit more mature as well from what the organization and the scouts had told me,” said Teves.
“I felt and they felt that I was kind of ready to step in and then it’s more of a learning experience too. The position the team was in it, they weren’t probably going to make the playoffs, so it was an opportunity to go there and learn and kind of take it all in and try to be a sponge and prepare myself for next season and professional hockey as a whole. It was more of an experience to see what it’s all about and get a little taste of it, and know how to better prepare this summer, and what I need to work on and what it takes to be as prepared as I can be this fall.”
Looking back on his time at Princeton, Teves believes the experience prepared him well for the jump to the pro level. Last winter, Teves led Princeton defensemen in scoring with 20 points. In his junior season, he led all NCAA defensemen in points per game at 1.06 and assists per game at 0.79. He had 85 points in his four years at Princeton.
“Obviously there are a lot of lessons I learned in my time at Princeton,” said Teves, who piled up 69 assists in his career, the most ever for a Princeton defenseman.
“I really enjoyed it, and not only the hockey side of it, but the academic side. There’s a lot of things you can take from how difficult some of the course work was and the time management and goal setting and hard work you’ve got to put in to do well at school. I think you can take those lessons and apply them to sports as well. Obviously the hockey side of things was great at Princeton and I can’t say enough about how much they’ve helped me. Just the school as a whole and my time there helped shape me and helped push me towards reaching my goals with my hockey career.”
Teves is one of four Princeton products who was in an NHL development camp this summer with classmates Ryan Kuffner and Max Veronneau along with incoming freshman Liam Gorman. In addition, Tiger alums Taylor Fedun ’11 and Eric Robinson ’18 signed NHL deals this summer with goalie Mike Condon ’13 getting traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning after stints with Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Ottawa.
“It’s an amazing opportunity and a testament to the program that we’ve got,” said Teves.
“We have a handful of guys now breaking in or that have played in the league as well. I’m just super proud to be another one of those names of guys that have had a taste and hopefully will be full-timer in the NHL. It’s a neat little brotherhood we have there. When I was up, Taylor Fedun came to play in Vancouver, so I had an opportunity to meet with him and have a chat. Eric Robinson who I know really well from my years at Princeton, he’s playing at Columbus, and was in town as well. It was a cool opportunity to catch up with him and then Max and Ryan. That’s pretty special that all three of us could have a chance at the end of the season. There’s definitely a lot of pride to be representing Princeton in the National Hockey League. It’s definitely nice that I can have some other close friends that I can bounce ideas off and kind of talk through things with.”
With Vancouver’s training camp slated to start on September 13, Teves has shifted his focus fully to his professional career. Having cheered for his hometown Calgary Flames growing up, he had to put aside the rivalry between the Canucks and the Flames.
“Some buddies were giving me a bit of a hard time about that, but it’s a great organization,” said Teves.
“I spent two years living in British Columbia playing junior hockey, so I got to watch all the Canucks games when I was in that area. I kind of know the history of the organization from players like [Mark] Messier to [Markus] Naslund and [Henrik] Sedin that have gone through it. It’s kind of great to know the history a little bit and be in a Canadian market. It’s not too far from home. I’ve had a little taste of it and probably more times than not been cheering against Vancouver, but it was an easy transition to make for sure.”
Currently, Teves is back home in Calgary working out in preparation for camp after attending some Canucks camps earlier this summer.
“There was a bit of a mini-camp for some of the new guys early in the spring with their development staff and skills coach and skating coach and athletic trainers as well,” said Teves.
“That was earlier in May and then the team had their annual development camp in June where they bring in all their young draft picks and new signings. That was in Vancouver. I had gone to that camp the year before as a free agent invite, so I knew kind of what to expect. That was a week in June on the ice and we got to experience the organization a bit more and they got their hands on you a little and give you some tips.”
Some of the tips they couldn’t teach were ones that Teves picked up in his time up with Vancouver as being around the NHL team and on the ice stuck with him.
“Some of the lessons I learned and some of the things I’ll take forward are the strength and the speed of the game and the details,” said Teves.
“The execution is just at a really high level and a huge jump from college. Just the focus level you need and attention to detail every practice, every workout, and every game is something. You can’t take a second off. The players are so good, so talented, and so hard working that you really have to be on your A-game. The speed increases, the strength increases, everyone is at the top of their game. It’s the best league in the world for a reason so you have got to be ready to go. Just having that experience for a couple weeks of taking it in and seeing what it takes has helped a lot this summer to prepare. I’m trying to get myself as prepared as I can and be as ready as I can this fall to try to make a career out of it and to be a full timer in the NHL.”
Teves is hopeful that his hard work will pay off with a roster spot with the Canucks. He is looking for the chance to gain experience and prove that he can play in the NHL.
“You have to go in with that mindset that you will go in and take somebody’s job,” said Teves.
“It’s a business now so it’s every man for himself but to even have an opportunity to crack an NHL roster is just amazing and I feel really lucky to be in this position. It’s definitely time to crank up the effort and the discipline and the work ethic that goes into it. I’m just really excited for the opportunity and excited to put the work in and hopefully turn some heads and make a roster spot this year.”