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Catching The Torch: Josh Brook’s Junior career could be reaching its end

Stats, highlights, and updates on the Montreal Canadiens prospects from the past week.

Robert Murray/WHL

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) and collegiate (NCAA) level.

Ryan Poehling had been quite lucky in his college career. He managed to play three full seasons with his team without missing time due to injury. That changed last week due to a scary event in St. Cloud State’s game against Colorado College. At the mid-point of the first period, Poehling hit the boards head first. He didn’t play for the rest of the game and also missed his team’s contest against the University of Minnesota - Duluth on Saturday.

Engaged in their conference playoffs, the Huskies managed to win over Colorado and reach the final, despite missing one of their main play-drivers. Ultimately, they came up short and fell to Minnesota - Duluth in a game that needed a second period of overtime to determine a winner.

The Frozen Faceoff is the first of the two tournaments that constitute the post-season in NCAA hockey. The next event that follows it — arguably the more important one in the heart of the college players — is the Frozen Four.

It starts with the NCAA Regionals. St. Cloud’s loss against Minnesota won’t impact their participation in the prestigious tournament due to their regular-season performance. They finished as the number-one ranked team in the league and punched their ticket this way, like many other top organizations.

Poehling’s participation in the Regionals next weekend and beyond to the main event is still uncertain. His upper-body injury will be re-evaluated during the week.

This situation will also impact Montreal’s plan for their 2017 first-round pick. If his team were to be eliminated early enough to make Poehling turning pro this spring a possibility, the Habs may prefer to rest their prospect instead of giving him a few games under their banner.

Josh Brook, RD, Moose Jaw Warriors

The Moose Jaw Warriors are a top-heavy team. They rely on the output of a few veterans to carry them past the other strong formations of the Western Hockey League. Only five of their players broke the 30-point mark in the regular season, and all five scored at above a point-per-game pace. They are Tristan Langan, Justin Almeida, Brayden Tracy, Jett Woo, and, of course, Habs prospect Josh Brook — two defencemen and a very strong offensive line.

For unknown reasons, Tracy, draft-eligible for the first time this year, has been scratched for the final regular-season games and the opening two of the playoffs, making the need for inspired performances by Moose Jaw’s core even more dire. But the Warriors have only managed three goals in their first two playoffs games against the Saskatoon Blades.

The Blades are a more balanced team, and also finished ahead of the Warriors in the standings. They have won the opening contests at home, placing them in a very advantageous position in the best-of-seven series.

In the early going, Brook has been guilty of overdoing things at times, but it’s hard to blame him for it considering how much the hopes of his team reside on his shoulders.

The defenceman has shown this season that he is more effective with the puck when he looks around, finds outlets, and uses his skating and stickhandling ability to reach his teammates as quickly as possible instead of taking on more than he (and probably any other defenceman) can handle.

He had some great sequences that showed better habits against the Blades, where he would break the puck out in pressured situations against multiple opponents by identifying the exit route and using his tools to beat the forecheck before reaching teammates.

Continuing to be solid on zone exits will be key for Brook and the whole of the Warriors team in their upcoming games as they serve as the basis of their offence.

Josh Brook wears #2 with the Moose Jaw Warriors

Despite his team only scoring three goals, Brook’s offensive game was on point last weekend, like it has been all season. He recorded two assists, one in each game, and showed crisp execution in the offensive zone. He also led the play up the ice himself on a number of occasions, successfully gaining the zone for his team.

Here are both of Brook’s points last weekend:

For his first assist, he picked up the puck in the defensive zone and carried it to the offensive end, pushing back the line of defence before making a drop-pass to one of his forwards for the goal.

The defenceman recorded his second assist in typical fashion on the power play. He rushed the puck in, and dropped it for a teammate, then repositioned on the left half-wall. After getting the puck back, he faked a pass to the blue line to shake his coverage and advanced into the slot where he found a shot-ready forward.

Brook has developed a few recipes on the power play that have brought him a lot of success and allowed him to boost his point total this season, which he is continuing to do in the playoffs. Those set plays won’t all translate to the NHL level when he is slotted in a new power-play structure and faces defenders who are much better at taking away passing lanes. But, those plays do show a few qualities about the defenceman — his deception skills, speed of execution, hard and precise feeds, and above-average vision — that definitely will be assets at the top level.

If Moose Jaw ends up falling to Saskatoon (as soon as later this week), it’s likely we see Brook play a few games with the Laval Rocket before their season ends. It would give him a taste of professional hockey and a good idea of what to prepare for next year as he battles for a spot in Montreal Canadiens training camp.

From what we have seen from the defenceman this season, and his ascension as a WHL star blue-liner, he could realistically make an impact as soon as he arrives in Laval.

Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.

CHL Playoffs

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL BLB / ROU 10 8 9 17
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 4 0 3 3
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph Injured
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 11 4 4 8
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL OS / GUE 11 10 10 20
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 8 1 3 4
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle 6 0 5 5
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 10 0 7 7
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 4 0 3 3

CHL season to date

Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos League Team GP G A P
Joël Teasdale FA LW QMJHL BLB / ROU 66 43 37 80
Samuel Houde 2018 C QMJHL Chicoutimi 64 16 27 43
Cam Hillis 2018 C OHL Guelph 33 10 12 22
Allan McShane 2018 LW/C OHL Oshawa 62 34 35 69
Nick Suzuki 2017 C/RW OHL OS / GUE 59 34 60 94
Cole Fonstad 2018 LW WHL Prince Albert 67 29 44 73
Jarret Tyszka 2017 LD WHL Seattle 41 8 22 30
Scott Walford 2017 LD WHL Victoria 62 9 38 47
Josh Brook 2017 RD WHL Moose Jaw 59 16 59 75

NCAA season to date

Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Player Draft Pos Conference Team GP G A P
Jack Gorniak 2018 LW Big Ten Wisconsin 37 4 11 15
Brett Stapley 2018 C WCHA Denver 32 5 14 19
Ryan Poehling 2017 C NCHC St. Cloud State 36 8 23 31
Nikolas Koberstein 2014 RD WCHA Alaska-Fairbanks 35 0 10 10
Jordan Harris 2018 LD Hockey East Northeastern 39 1 12 13

Cayden Primeau season to date

Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Player Draft year League Team Record GAA Sv% SO
Cayden Primeau 2017 NCAA Northeastern 25-10-1 2.09 0.933 4