Josh Robinson: Talking to ECHL Goaltender of the Year
Michigan native Josh Robinson didn’t have the season he wanted in 2014-15, so he set a goal for his last off-season: to improve his game as much as he could and enter this season with a fresh outlook.
In other words, he wanted to be the best.
He worked with his goaltending coach from the Missouri Mavericks, Clint Elberts, who had moved back to Minnesota. He also worked with Dave Rogalski, who he knew from years of coaching and development, keeping in contact with both and fixing the parts of his game he wasn’t happy with. And he took another step in his second summer of position-specific off-ice sports vision training with Josh Tucker at Envision Sports (look for more specifics on the vision training in the next edition of InGoal Magazine).
Robinson, who also spent time with Dallas Stars goaltending development coach Mike Valley, spent three to four days a week on the ice, every week, from the beginning of May to the start of training camp. He stood in net for the Minnesota Wild with their black aces, taking shots and getting his rhythm back after a tough season split between the ECHL and Austria, and worked on head trajectory, which he felt enhanced a tracking ability already considered the strongest part of his game.
Robinson wanted to be the best prepared goaltender when he got back on the ice in Missouri in the fall.
Robinson, 26, was named the ECHL Goaltender of the Year for the 2015-16 season after posting a 28-2-1 regular season record with a .931 save percentage. He had two shutouts, averaged 1.88 goals against, and earned two separate AHL PTO’s – one with the Stockton Heat, and one with the Springfield Falcons.
“Every year you figure out a little bit more about your game,” Robinson told InGoal, “You learn a little bit more about yourself and how to succeed. I struggled a little last year, but I used that long off-season to prepare the best I could for the upcoming year. I took care of every little detail.”
Part of his improvement came from incorporating head trajectory, a system introduced by Lyle Mast of OR Sports that helps a goaltender understand how they moves their head affects not only the ability to track a puck, but also how the body moves before, during and after a save. Robinson said he learned it through Elberts, who was introduced to it at a camp in Boston by a coach who learned it from Steve Valiquette.
“It was kind of passed down twice, but I still use it quite a bit, try to focus on the little bit I know and use that every day,” Robinson said. “Tracking is kind of a new part of my game but it is definitely number one for me. If I’m getting scored on it’s because I wasn’t tracking well; when I am playing well and stopping the shots I’m supposed to, it’s because my tracking is on. … I started tracking work with Mike Valley, who worked on hands a lot. I started working on off-ice vision training as well, though, and every little tool I’ve picked up, I’ve learned what my strengths are. I’ve gotten better every year because of it.”
The Mavericks as a whole were a better team this year than the year before, but a large part of that was due to Robinson, who along with partner Parker Milner, limited the ECHL franchise to just nine regulation losses all season. They’re currently up 3-0 in their playoff series against the Quad City Mallards, and a large part of that has been due to the duo, with Robinson posting a 38-save win in Game One.
It’s not just his technical game, either. Rogalski, who coached Robinson over the last three summers, was quick to praise the netminder’s self-awareness in net as part of what’s made him so successful this year.
“With maturity, he’s gained more awareness of his self-positioning,” Rogalski said. “Rather than chasing a puck wide or overextending, he’s trusting his positioning, or leaning into a save. His understanding of how to identify when to panic versus when he can get a solid push has been great. He’s developed a sense of learning to play; the technique has been there the whole time, but the trust has grown.
“He’s going to reach his full potential.”
The ECHL is one of the fastest-growing leagues in North America. In the last four years alone, it’s become a place where scouts show up regularly to see what players have to offer, where teams can put their prospects and know they’re getting the competition they need. Robinson’s only in-season goalie coaching came during his time in Stockton and Springfield, but a lot more NHL teams are now sending their development goaltending coach down to the ECHL each month to work with prospects .
That’s still a largely unrecognized point for a number of hockey fans, but further highlights the growth and accomplishment that Robinson exhibited when he earned the Goaltender of the Year honors this season.
When asked about his performance this year, Robinson was quick to confirm it was his best season ever, but when asked about his numbers for the year, he didn’t have much to say.
“I only checked my numbers maybe twice throughout the year,” he admitted. “It wasn’t about that.”
“I wanted to stay focused. “Even if my team isn’t scoring goals, I can stop the puck.”
That’s exactly what he did.