What a wild month it has been for recent NCAA graduateĀ Josh Robinson.

His senior year at Michigan Tech was not only a “renaissance” of sorts for his overall game, but his consistency played a major role in the Huskies earning a surprising berth in this season’s WCHA Final Five Tournament. They lost to the University of Denver in the opening game back on March 15, but Robinson was a stud that night; he earned Third Star honors after stopping 41 of 44 shots in the 3-2 OT loss.

Photo Copyright Justin Goldman – The Goalie Guild

Although he flew under the radar for most of his collegiate playing career, Josh did exactly what he needed to do in order to advance to the next level — he finished strong.

By posting a 15-14-4 record with a 2.83 goals-against average and .909 save percentage (including a stretch of 15 straight starts), he not only earned the team’s annual MVP award, but he was MTU’s most successful goalie since Jamie Ram won 16 games in the 1992-93 season.

Combined with the confidence-boosting guidance of volunteer goalie coach Steve Shields, Robinson’s game literally burst at the seams as the season went along. In the final two months, his long-term potential soared, scouts started to pay closer attention to his play, and he gained the exposure needed to sign his first pro contract.

The deal is a two-way AHL/ECHL contract with the Texas Stars and Idaho Steelheads. There’s no knowing what kind of role he’ll have in Texas or Idaho until next season begins, but the contract is structured similarly to that of John Muse, the former Boston College star that signed an AHL/ECHL deal one year ago with the Charlotte Checkers.

Muse wasn’t officially a Carolina Hurricanes prospect this season, but after a remarkable rookie campaign, one that included an ECHL Kelly Cup Title with the Florida Everblades, the Hurricanes had no choice but to sign him to a two-way contract a few weeks ago.

So if Robinson has a strong rookie season, there’s at least some chance he could end up signing a deal with the Dallas Stars. But regardless of where he starts and ends next season, Josh’s day-to-day performances will be watched closely by the Stars organization.

Not-so-ironically, there’s a pretty cool connection between Robinson and this week’s Elite Prospects Mentorship Camp. The camp is run by Stars goalie coach Mike Valley, and this just so happens to be Robinson’s second consecutive year participating in the Mentorship program.

Sure enough, after his first experience in this camp last summer, Josh’s confidence soared. It quickly parlayed into his senior season with Michigan Tech, where he continued to improve his skills, and his overall awareness in net. He quickly took over the starting role, gave his team a chance to win in almost every game he played, and benefited from practices and video analysis sessions with Shields.

As you will read in the interview below, this guidance from high-level goalie coaches such as Valley and Shields played a big role in Josh’s success over the last 14 months. It’s honestly a huge advantage; most college goalies simply don’t get that day-to-day support from a goalie coach, especially one that has such a quality NHL resume like Shields.

At that age, especially with school, it’s not always easy to self-manage one’s game and development.

But Robinson took full advantage of Shield’s presence this season, and their hard work and determination as a tandem really paid off.

Photo Copyright Justin Goldman – The Goalie Guild

When it comes to breaking down Robinson’s style after two full days of on and off-ice evaluations, I’ll sum it up like this:

He doesn’t remind me of anyone else.

He has his own unique style, and he plays the game in a way that I can’t really compare to just one NHL or AHL goaltender that I track. He does obviously display bits and pieces of other goalies, but in a general sense, Robinson is completely unique, and that’s a compliment.

For a guy that is listed at just 6-foot-1, maybe his biggest asset is that he fills space like a 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 goaltender. He’s wide in the net, visually appears to have a wide chest and waist, and furthermore, he moves extremely well in his equipment. He may not be the quickest fish in the sea, but more importantly, he has very controlled pushes and slides for the speed he displays.

“He’s very positionally sound goaltender,” said Valley in between on-ice sessions at the Madison Ice Arena in Wisconsin. “You can really tell he plays with a calm presence in the net.”

I also consider Josh to be an even-keeled and relaxed goaltender.

He tracks pucks and manages plays in tight with ease. He has a quiet upper body, and maintains solid body composure. Whether a shooter is jamming pucks on quick wraparound plays from behind the net, or he has to power-push from high to low, diagonally, or post-to-post in a hurry, Josh moves with a distinct smoothness that reflects a “cool, calm and collected” goaltender.

This body language is a sign of a goalie that has confidence in many areas of the game, including tracking and squaring up to pucks, and covering aerial angles with his gloves. His eyes are locked on to pucks and stick blades, but it looks like he’s just chilling in a hammock on a hot summer day.

Most importantly, however, is that ability to fill open space for his 6-foot-1 frame. That’s a skill you can’t really teach, and it will probably go a long way in allowing him to make the transition from the NCAA to the ECHL (or AHL) with more confidence and consistency.

Josh is also a “detail-oriented” guy with his equipment. I’ve noticed a bunch of little tweaks and mods to his Brian’s pads, including a little finger pad on his blocker (where the trigger finger holds the stick), the palm of his glove, and especially his skates. As you can see below, they’re a very nice combination of MLX boots and Graf cowlings.

Photo Copyright Justin Goldman – The Goalie Guild

There is so much more to Robinson’s game and overall technique, but from what I have learned in just two days, he’s one of those quietly good goalies that always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He’s well-positioned, and he never appears to have urgent or desperate body language.

I haven’t seen him play more than a few games at Michigan Tech, but I would have to guess he’s one of those goalies that rarely gets caught flopping around or “swimming” in his crease.

Finally, Josh displays good adaptability. When asked to make little tweaks or adjustments to his sliding angles, or the way his arms, hands, or feet are positioned, he can take information, process it quickly, and make changes effectively. He’s really coachable, and that’s another trait you can’t always teach. He’s a smart college kid, and it’s really showing during this camp.

Furthermore, body control, especially when shimmying or shuffling or power sliding from side-to-side, is paramount to being successful as a rookie at the pro levels. Things happen faster, shots are released faster, plays develop faster, and being able to control explosive pushes becomes that much more important.

That just so happens to be one of Josh’s best traits, and that bodes well for his long-term upside over the next year.

Josh will not only attend another Elite Goalies Mentorship Program in Vancouver later this summer, but he will also gain valuable experience at the Stars development camp in July.

To me, the larger picture is another example of the importance of full-time goalie coaching. Those that get it have the potential to soar in terms of their overall development. Those that don’t often get left behind.

But take nothing away from Josh’s accomplishments over the last season; it’s one thing to have doors open for you, but it’s quite another to bust through them and rip off the hinges. He did all the right things, he stayed patient during his tenure at MTU, and he truly earned his first pro contract.

Photo Copyright Justin Goldman – The Goalie Guild

JG: It has obviously been a pretty big month for you. Does the pro contract change your approach at all?

JR: “No, not at all. I just try to work my hardest in the summer, in the gym and on the ice. I come into every season being in the same mindset, being as prepared as possible and being ready to go when the puck drops.”

JG: Talking to Steve and Mike over the season, your development really exploded this sseason. What was the key for you?

JR: “I think it was a combination of a lot of things. It was a big confidence boost when we simplified my game a little bit last year. Moving my hands out, really just tracking the puck better, and being prepared for every shot. Having Shieldsy there was great for my development. It was basically like having a guy like Valls [Valley] there the entire season. He’s a little different obviously, but basically it was having the a guy there every day this season. It was great to be able to bounce ideas off him, and do video. That was something I’ve never really had, and this was the first time really having a full-time goalie coach for a season.”

JG: Do you think attending this Mentorship Camp last summer played a significant role in your confidence boost this past season?

JR: “I think it was huge. It was by far one of the best goalie schools that I’ve ever been to. The one-on-one attention you receive here with four high-level goalies and two or three coaches on the ice every time, you can’t find that anywhere else in the world for goalie training unless you’re doing private lessons. I think it’s unbelievable how Mike breaks down the game and makes it so simple and easy for everyone to understand. The way he explains things, you can pick it up so quickly and it pays instant dividends in your game.”

JG: This is your second Elite Goalies Mentorship Camp…so what do you feel like is the best part of the experience?

JR: “I think it’s the total package. It offers so much in such a condensed period. I think it’s the equivalent of getting half a summer worth of private lessons in one week. You can’t beat the level of coaching out here. The shooters with Burish and McDonough and NHL’ers out here. NHL shooters and NHL goalie coaches, you’re training like an NHL goalie. The game slowed down so much after I went to this camp last summer, so this summer is different because I’ll stay at the pro level, but the amount of individual attention and the attention to detail and the way he breaks everything down just makes this a great camp.”

JG: From watching you this week, I use the term ‘adaptability’ to describe your game. You make minor adjustments fast, you pick up things quickly.

JR: “I think it’s a great asset for any goalie to have, and to make those changes really quick. When any goalie coach sees something in your game and suggests something, you at least have to give it a shot and see how it works out. When it works out the first time with Valls here in this camp, it’s an instant confidence booster. It’s like, yeah, this works…and it clicks right away.”

JG: What do you want to work on the most this summer so that you’re ready when the puck drops next season?

JR: “I just want to get used to the speed. To be able to read the play and the shots better. Everything happens that much quicker, so being ready at all times for the better players.”

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