Every year in preparation to the draft, some high-schoolers draw attention, often because they not only dominate their peers in terms of production but also due to the NHL projectable tools in their game.
As St. Sebastien School’s top blue-liner, Jayden Struble put up 40 points in 28 games this year after scoring at a point-per-game rate for the same team last season. But more than his numbers the interest comes from the defenceman being one of the better skating prospects at his position in the draft.
Birthplace: Cumberland, Rhone Island, USA
Date of birth: August 9th, 2001
Weight: 194 lbs.
Team: St. Sebastien School
Struble is quick off the mark. It helps him keep the pressure up on the opposition with pinches from the blue line when his team is established on offence. He also moves fluidly in all four directions and changes from one to another very quickly, using his edges to his advantage to keep his body in between the puck and opponents. On top of that he is very solid on his skates; opponents have a hard time knocking him off possession as he carves his way up the ice with multiple crossovers.
The first sequence below illustrates Struble’s mobility well. He loses the puck at the blue line but accelerates to get the first touch on it with an opponent right behind him. The defenceman reaches it first and immediately moves his back in front of the opposing forward to shield the puck and gain separation. He then circles down inside his zone, picks up speed with impressive backward crossovers, and gets right back on offence, attacking the middle of the ice against multiple defenders.
(Jayden Struble wears #4.)
Struble's skating is a great asset in the puck-moving role he likes to play. He finds routes to hold possession out of the zone and evade opponents in the process. He will have to limit his turnovers as he rises in levels, but as options will often be more readily available as he turns to look up ice after retrieving the puck, it should also help his passing game grow in effectiveness to complememt his rush attempts.
In the offensive zone, Struble shows himself to be a skilled handler who is capable of receiving passes under pressure and distributing the puck back to teammates with a couple of precise touches. He also has a powerful shot and can read the play to find holes in the opposition’s coverage to jump into and release from closer to the net.
What is both a strength and a weakness is Struble’s fiery temper. It can spell trouble for his opponents, but also himself. In the sequence below, after not liking an opponent’s hit, he hunted him down to bring him to the ice.
Yet Struble’s penchant for physical play is also a useful card for him in his defensive game, using it along the boards and in front of the net to prevent access to the puck and take it himself to rush up the ice.
Like most players drafted out of prep schools, Struble is more of a long-term project. He has many very interesting tools that could, with development, turn him into an impactful NHLer down the road, especially because his defensive game is more advanced than many of his counterparts who played at the same level. He displays more awareness and attention to neutralizing threats, but of course he will have to learn to do that in a more controlled and measured way.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Future Considerations: #124
Hockey Prospect: #56
NHL Central Scouting: #48 (NA skaters)
Pronman/The Athletic: #69
Next year, Struble will join the Victoria Grizzlies in the BCHL for a year of Junior A hockey in preparation for his jump to the NCAA. In 2020-21, he will then play for Northeastern University and will likely remain in their program for a few years. It's possible that the NHL organization that drafts the defenceman has to wait four to five years for him to turn professional. But the wait could be worth it if a polished version of Struble's promising game is the reward.