Each week we take an in-depth look at young members of the organization while providing an overview of Habs prospects playing at the junior (OHL, WHL), collegiate (USHL, NCAA), and professional (ECHL) level.
Josh Brook played his first three games of the season. He joined the Moose Jaw Warriors on the ice on Tuesday after more than two months of inactivity.
Brook had suffered a wrist injury in the Montreal Canadiens rookie camp this summer. It necessitated surgery and the initial prognosis was a six-to-eight week recovery. It was a slow process, but the Habs’ second-round pick is finally seeing some action.
Drafted ahead of Scott Walford and Cale Fleury, with his impressive mobility, an aggressive defensive game, and his abilities as an offensive defenceman, he is regarded as a more complete defender than the rest of the Habs prospects playing in the WHL.
Josh Brook #2, RD, Moose Jaw Warriors
There was some noticeable rust in Brook's play this week. His passing ability is one of the most prominent features of his game as he's usually able to give the puck back to his teammates with a lot of power and precision, but in his first handful of games, it was not at the level of what we have come to expect out of the Habs prospect.
There were a few sequences that showed exactly what he can bring to the Warriors when his execution is crisp. His team already had one of the best power plays in the league, and they sit at the top of the WHL standings, but the addition of Brook can only push their play to be even more dominant.
Brook can make some quick puck movements happen on the man advantage. He doesn't reveal his intentions before passing and moves his feet in such a way to open space for others. He knows where his options are, and the puck can fly off his stick to an open teammate in a matter of a second.
He's also always looking to get closer to the net for a shot.
Last season, he showcased an ability to find lanes to shoot the puck by using abrupt stops, fakes, and accelerations. This, added to his passing skills, makes him an optimal quarterback for the Warriors.
In his first few games, he wasn't as effective with his shot, but as he picks up the pace and gets more comfortable, we should see him pull off more of the moves that have previously led to offensive success.
Something he did display a lot this week was his puck-rushing ability. He's utilized to carry the puck in repeatedly on the power play, even making sure to create a controlled entry for the second wave, establishing their offence before going to the bench.
His smooth skating ability allows him to move effortlessly around opposing players as he makes his way up the ice. His reach also lets him keep the puck at a distance from his body, leaving him able to evade pokechecks without worrying about slowing down to stickhandle around sticks.
This is not to say that Brook is a one-man breakout machine, as he was struggling noticeably with his decision-making and execution in that aspect this week.
There were some missed puck reversals to his defence partner, poor passes in the neutral zone, and he was generally challenging forecheckers too much instead of feeding his forwards, letting them handle the rush.
It was still a good comeback performance from him, the highlights being some very hard hits.
Brook also picked up his first point of the season in the dying seconds of his first game: an assist on an empty-netter. Despite it not being the most outstanding goal of that match, it was a display of a good puck retrieval in the defensive zone.
As he went to the corner, he shoulder-checked for forechecking pressure, but instead of going straight for the puck and rimming it around directly to the opposition, he slowed down and pushed against the forward closing in on him.
By tying up the stick of that forward, he allowed his defence partner to come in and play the puck for a better pass to an uncovered winger. This is the kind of small play that makes a team’s transitions from zone to zone much easier.
Brook is calm under pressure and has a good vision of the ice. He has a lot of the tools that could make him an impactful defenceman for the Habs in the future. As he plays more games in the coming weeks, we should see him build on what he already showcased last year, which was some great play at both ends of the ice.
However, consistency has always been an issue for him, so this season, he will need to show that he can be at the top of his game on a more regular basis.
It will be hard for him to surpass the 40-point mark he had in 2016-17, having already missed 25 games. But, strictly in terms of pace, there's no doubt that he can do better than his previous 0.58 points per game with a very strong Warriors team.
Cale Fleury and the Regina Pats will host the Memorial Cup in May, but it's very possible that Brook will be opposing him in the tournament. A matchup of Montreal's blue-liners rushing the puck from their own end and competing with their respective power plays would be incredible to watch.
We can only hope that Moose Jaw remains dominant and can work with Brook to make him a more steady and even more powerful force on their back end, carrying the Warriors all the way to a league championship.
Weekly CHL performance
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William Bitten recorded three points this week, keeping him at the point-per-game pace he reached last week. Despite the Bulldogs new acquisitions, Bitten is still slotted down the middle, which could be good news for what is becoming a promising pipeline for the Canadiens at the centre position.
Michael Pezzetta had a goal and an assist when the struggling Sudbury Wolves faced the Mississauga Steelheads on Friday. His 13th goal was a tipped shot from the point, as his play in front of the net profited him once again.
CHL season to date
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Jarret Tyszka had another goal from almost the spot spot as last week, rushing the net and backhanding the puck above the Vancouver Giants goalie. He picked up another assist when he passed to Zack Andrusiak in front of the crease.
Scott Walford's play has been more dynamic lately. For one of his two assist on Friday, he prepared the zone exit and joined the attack. He then dropped a pass to Chaz Reddekopp, who executed a beautiful top-corner shot from the top of the circles.
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