Joshua Avery has always been a rule follower, a self-motivated individual who keeps doing something until it’s perfect, be it in school or on the ice with the U16 Peterborough Petes of the OMHA’s Eastern AAA Hockey League.
“I learned from hard work,” says the 16-year-old forward.
His dedication to working on himself helped establish him as a candidate for the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) draft. Motivation for the third-leading scorer in the ETA with 78 points (35 goals, 43 assists) always came from within, making things easy for his parents.
“We don't have to do too much other than drive him to where he needs to go and support him,” said Avery's mother, Michelle. “He is committed to doing well in school and hockey, so we have not had to intervene too much.”
Avery got his first mini sticks, a six-pack of the original six teams, from his mother on his first Christmas, and he was just drawn to the game. His parents didn’t have to push him into the sport, as hockey resonated with him. He wanted to get on the ice and be like the big kids.
“I think he liked it because dad did it, mom did it," said Avery's father, Alan. "He saw it on TV, loved watching (Sidney) Crosby and (Connor) McDavid, and then just thought, this is what I want to do.”
At the age of four, his parents got him signed up for U7 hockey and then at six, he moved up into a house league with games on the full sheet of ice.
Back then, he simply wanted to play a real game like his NHL heroes. His style of play is far more advanced now, reading his linemates and acting as a playmaker.
“I can create opportunities in the offensive zone for me and my teammates,” he said. “I think I need to work on my first few steps, like if it's a battle in the corner, if I win the battle, just getting out of there and get separating space from me and the D, either offensive or defensive zone, just to break out of the zone or get a scoring chance on that.”
Playing in the NHL is a common goal and getting drafted to the OHL is an important step towards it.
For Avery, getting bigger, faster, and stronger are the main priorities but he also believes in mastering elements one can control, such as hard work, proper nutrition and sleep.
He also doesn't take criticism personally; if he makes a mistake in the game, he works on that area and focuses on making it right in the next game.
“There are tons of good players out there,” he said. “If you keep working hard, putting in the time, and doing everything to the best of your ability, you can go places.”
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Kashish Dhawan is a student in the Sport Journalism post-grad program at Centennial College. Follow her on Twitter @DhawanKashish