There was a time, not too long ago, where Josh Brook’s success would be instrumental to the long-term success of the Montreal Canadiens’ blue line.
Things haven’t worked out that way. Brook’s progression in the AHL was steady, and he looked primed to take the next step forward, but a knee injury suffered during his ramp up for training camp has derailed a pivotal year in his development.
The 22-year-old is part of the team’s 2017 Draft haul which includes Ryan Poehling, Cale Fleury, and Cayden Primeau. It also includes Joni Ikonen, Scott Walford, and Jarrett Tyszka who were not signed.
Brook is the only one signed to his entry-level contract yet to make his NHL debut, and on Friday was assigned to the ECHL’s Trois-Rivières Lions. With only a few months left on his entry-level deal, it has become a make-or-break assignment for Brook.
In the last two years, the Canadiens have added Kaiden Guhle, Logan Mailloux, and Justin Barron to the organization as well as signing Mattias Norlinder and Jordan Harris. What was once a thin group of defencemen in the organization has thickened out rather nicely. Brook is no longer pivotal to the organizations’ future, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t giving him a chance to prove himself.
Injuries have kept him to just six AHL games this season. He had no training camp, and no exhibition games. Even NHL veteran Joel Edmundson took a while to get his form after missing the start of the season. With Laval’s defence playing so well, and the team in a playoff race, Brook was hard pressed to be one of the team’s six best defencemen. Going to a Lions team that is also in a playoff race, needs defencemen, and is maybe a step behind the AHL will help Brook if he sees it as an opportunity.
The most important thing for Brook right now is to play games. He wasn’t getting that chance with Laval, so with the Lions he can work his way back onto the organization’s radar. He is set to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and the decision whether to give him his qualifying offer will likely depend on what he shows over the next month.
Brook has always seen opportunity where others haven’t, even if it meant playing as a forward in the WHL or with Laval on occasion. The assignment to the ECHL may be a step back, but it can provide him with the opportunity to take two steps forward.
The Lions are in Worcester to face the Nailers on Friday and Saturday. Brook will join the team there.