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LAS VEGAS – It can be hard to be the little brother sometimes. I am one and I can tell you trying to learn in the footsteps of an elder can be a frustrating experience filled with identity issues.
But for Josh Dickinson, who has long lived in the shadow of his older brother, Jason, a first-round selection of the Dallas Stars in 2013, the opportunity to step out and create his own legacy is finally here.
While Jason thrived as a star for the OHL’s Guelph Storm, Josh found his way through the OJHL, eventually landing at Clarkson University as a 20-year-old freshman. Finally out on his own, Josh produced an impressive freshman season, notching 26 points (15g, 11a) in 40 games and capped off his year by signing with Avalanche in the spring.
He saw Colorado giving opportunities to young players and decided he wanted to be next in line. With the Avalanche in Las Vegas for this year’s rookie tournament, Dickinson has created a spotlight of his own despite playing behind players with significantly more buzz.
Dickinson notched an assist in Colorado’s exciting 7-6 comeback loss. While he didn’t score in their follow-up effort, a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Dickinson’s play was arguably more impressive throughout the game as he created offense with his smart defensive play.
His ability to kick the offense into gear through the neutral zone stood out as his team struggled in general to create offense, especially early as the Avalanche were determined to avoid falling into the 5-0 hole they found themselves in during game one against Vegas.
“I think we came out fine,” Dickinson said. “We got on them early and we battled hard. The result didn’t end up the way we wanted it. We saw a lot of good things. We would have liked to have come out on the winning side but I think once we start gelling more the goals will start coming.”
While these are classic preseason games in that they don’t ultimately count for anything in the standings, the games still mean something to the young men playing them. These games are an opportunity to earn a contract or leapfrog a fellow prospect in the organizational pecking order so even though the standings will remain unchanged come the morning, don’t expect the players to be quite as relaxed.
“Obviously we’re a bunch of competitive guys,” Dickinson said. “We want to win every game but you’ve got to look at it, take away the positives from the game. It’s a rookie tournament so you’re showcasing yourself and how you can play within a team. You want to win every game but you have to put that stuff behind you and focus on winning next game.”
After playing center in game one, Dickinson found himself on the left wing next to Igor Shvyrev and Nick Henry. It was a large contrast in styles as each of those three have significantly different games. Instead of worrying about any of that, Dickinson simply saw an opportunity.
“I don’t want to be a guy that comes in and can only play one position,” he said. “I want to be versatile because then whenever an opportunity comes up I want to be in contention for it. I want to be able to play wherever they need me.”
The Avalanche are already well-stocked in the NHL with forwards so Dickinson is just beginning the climb up the depth chart that he hopes ultimately ends in his ascension to the NHL. Here, with his peer group, Dickinson is standing out against a handful of players he’ll soon be competing with for ice time in Loveland for the Colorado Eagles as they embark on their first AHL season.
Dickinson’s heady two-way game is already helping him stand out from his age group, an important separation as the kids get integrated into normal camp with the NHL veterans next week. And in a game like the one against Anaheim, a physical contest that threatened to turn into a back-alley brawl at a moment’s notice, Dickinson found himself even more comfortable.
“I love it,” Dickinson said of the hard-hitting atmosphere adopted by the Avs and Ducks on Sunday night. “It adds another element to my game. I know some guys don’t like it but I love the edge, I love when things get like that.”
Ultimately, his love of fighting the good fit will serve him well in his career because he’s only just begun to find his way in the Avalanche organization. Once he does, everyone ahead of him better keep an eye out.