The Montreal Canadiens have done a good job lately of acquiring talent via the draft and have made it clear that they are serious when it comes to amateur scouting.
When they entered the 2019 NHL Entry Draft which was held in Vancouver, B.C., they emphasized the need at filling the left side of the defence. They left the draft with 10 players, five of them being left-handed defensemen.
After being selected in the second round in 2019, Jayden Struble was eager to head to the NCAA and suit up for the Northeastern Huskies where he would join Canadiens draft pick Jordan Harris. While his first college season was cut short, he showed specific traits that if translated to the NHL, could make him an invaluable member of the Canadiens. If he develops to his full potential, he will end up as the team’s best defensemen when the likes of Shea Weber and Jeff Petry are no longer the anchors on the blue line.
Now, there’s no shade thrown at Alexander Romanov who is regarded by the majority of analysts and fans as being the top prospect on defence. However, lately, I have been thinking, “What if he isn’t?”
What Romanov and Struble bring, they bring with high levels of passion, intensity and total dedication. That’s why they are regarded by teams and scouts as great prospects. Romanov is a very electric and dynamic defender who is usually in the middle of the play, no matter where it is on the ice.
On the other hand, Struble is a more elegant player who plays with finesse and pace, but often turns nothing into something with the wide range of skills that he has. Both defenders will be key if the Montreal Canadiens ever want to be serious contenders in the NHL.
Struble is a very thick player. He’s built like and ox and is really one of the top prospects when it comes to overall strength, condition and general fitness. He has the build to play tough minutes and the endurance to keep coming back over and over again. That will be put to the test whenever college hockey returns for the 2020-21 season.
The six-foot, 205lbs defensemen is big, but not slow, not at all. He plays the game with pace and jump and moves very well, whether he has the puck or not. His rushing is not dynamic and that’s okay. It’s not always supposed to be and Jayden has had a ton of success moving the puck the way he has, dating back to early high school hockey.
Struble has good north-south vision. He’s very well balanced when it comes to offensive awareness and is great at both manning the point or joining the cycle to maintain pressure on opposing defenders. He’s got a great eye for offence.
On top of puck movement, he’s got the appropriate skills for scoring and is underestimated a lot when it comes to shooting. He possesses a deceptive release. He can really wire shots behind goaltenders and that’s one aspect of his game he should continue to perfect in order to add more variety to his playing style.
As well as putting power and accuracy into his shot, he has a knack of getting shots on net. Many times, defenders fall victim to shooting for the sake of shooting and get their shots blocked. Struble seems to find shooting lanes with laser accuracy for the purpose of creating rebounds for his teammates.
He Prides Himself On Defence
Opposing players hate driving the puck on his side. He loves it.
Struble’s big physique allows him to take up a bigger chunk of the ice and with his strong legs, he can get to danger areas quickly in order to confront opponents. He can beat you with his strong stick checking or his hard hitting. He excels at both, and in the end, will get the player off the puck and move it up to the ice.
Moreover, he has great positioning and vision when defending and is a key part of Northeastern’s penalty kill as he is tremendous at moving players from in front of the net, blocking shots and pressuring puck carriers in making bad decisions. He’s very active and that’s what makes life a little less stressful for his coach.
On top of using his physical skills on the ice, he uses his head the most. His decision making when defending is often his biggest strength. His intelligence is usually seen when defending an odd man rush or a tight two-on-one when the defence breaks down. He times his sliding and blocking to perfection and saves many of his teammates skins.
He Gives It His All
One of the biggest complaints about players is their commitment to micro and macro levels of success. Will they go to their max to work on their game on a personal level and will they do everything in their skill set to help the team win, even if it’s not always in their comfort zone? Struble is one of those types of players.
His overall dedication of the team’s success is what separates him from his peers and is regarded as a leader, even if he’s one of the younger guys on his team.
Like I mentioned earlier, he is very much involved in his own zone and he defends it by continuously analyzing all his options, and with quick thinking, he makes up his mind. You’ll often see him put his body on the line to block passes and shots and often will get one that stings, but you’ll see him come right back and risk it all just to keep shots away from the net. He is dedicated to the defensive part of his job.
Struble is often underrated by members of the media and fans alike because they don’t get to see him as often as I have over the last year and then some older footage from his high school days. He’s really much more than a tough defender. He has offensive abilities that scare opposing players.
He’s much more than a kid with a top physique. He can use his elite conditioning and fitness to continue playing at high levels, and when he is challenged by his coaches to perform, he does so with high efficiency. Regardless of who the top defensive prospect in this organization is, the one thing that is certain to me is if they develop properly, there is a bright future for the team’s blue line, and in the end, that’s what helps win championships.