Jayden Struble, a native from Rhode Island, was a pretty risky pick at 46th overall by the Canadiens back in 2019.
More precisely, the young defenseman played for St. Sebastian’s in the USHS-Prep, a hockey league where players would prepare themselves to play in the USHL afterwards. Despite Struble domination statistically in that league in 2018-2019, scoring 40 points in only 28 games, the fact is that he faced relatively weak competition (similar or slightly worse than the AJHL and BCHL).
Moreover, many of the decisions Struble made with the puck that year exploited weaknesses in defensive and physical play that won’t be present in more advanded levels opf competition. Of course, such a situation left quite a bit of doubt concerning Struble’s ability to adapt and produce offensively against better players.
Also, although Struble showed a pretty good ability to transition the puck, was a decent playmaker, showed excellent overall mobility and strength, owned a solid arsenal of shots and dekes worthy of a finesse-first forward, he was very much below-average defensively, took sub-optimal decisions with the puck all-over the ice and his hockey IQ was very suspect.
Let us just say that two years after the draft Struble has improved a lot, and managed to win over most of his critics.
Yes, the Canadiens’ prospect could still fail to eke out a career in the NHL, but the progression he’s shown, if it continues, alongside his high talent level, could mean he eventually ends up being a top 4 defenseman for Montreal
An excellent second season in the NCAA for Jayden Struble
During his first year with Northeastern, Struble performed well in spite of injury troubles that sidelined him for long periods of time. Though his offensive production in 2020 was nothing to write home about, with 10 points in 21 games, the attention to detail of the young defenseman, the improvements made to his decision-making implied that he could still improve greatly in the years to come. And he did.
Benefiting from a long offseason to get healthy, watch video and bulk up, Jayden Struble managed to score 8 points in 9 games with his team in 2020-2021, excelling on the powerplay and making much smarter decisions with the puck on his stick. Then there’s also the fact the seems to hesitate less when he plays this season, and that his defensive reads as well as gap control have gotten much better.
Another important improvement is that Struble picks his spots much better when it comes to end-to-end rushes compared to last year, which leads to less loss of possession of the puck, hence less dangerous odd-man rushes allowed when he’s on the ice.
For those that want to see and judge by themselves, here is a short video which highlights Struble’s presences on the ice on the 13th of December 2020, against Merrimack.
He progresses well, okay, but what type of player can Struble be in the NHL?
Excepting Romanov and Guhle, which are clearly on another level as far as their level of play and potential go, Jayden Struble is one of the best defenseman prospects of the Habs, alongside fellow Northeastern player Jordan Harris and Frolunda’s Mattias Norlinder.
Watching him more closely, observing his dynamic playstyle and puck-moving tendencies, as well as his attributes as a hockey player, Struble reminds me a bit of a young Matt Dumba and could become a similar player if EVERYTHING goes right, which will isn’t the likeliest outcome at all for him admittedly.
To conclude, another interesting fact about Struble is that he seems very aware of his own weaknesses and works arduously to correct them, which demonstrates a profound self-awareness and introspective qualities that most likely helped the Habs’ prospect improve so much this year, but could also take him far as far as the National Hockey League goes.