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2019 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: T-20 Jayden Struble

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The second-round selection debuts among the Top 20.

NHL: JUN 26 Canadiens Development Camp Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As St. Sebastian’s School’s top blue-liner, Jayden Struble put up 40 points in 28 games in 2018-19 after scoring at a point-per-game rate for the program the previous season. His numbers are one thing, but perhaps the main reason why Struble is highly regarded has to do with being one of the better skating prospects at his position in the draft.

Birthplace: Cumberland, Rhode Island, USA
Date of birth: September 8, 2001
Shoots: Left
Position: Defence
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 205 lbs.
Team: Northeastern University (NCAA)

The Montreal Canadiens liked what they saw from Struble in their viewings, selecting him 46th overall with plenty of quality players still on the board. He will take some time to develop, but he has a great set of skills to build an NHL-calibre game upon.

Voting

The votes for Jayden Struble were fairly spread out. Some had him as high as 14, while two other slotted him in the 30s. The average for Struble was the same as for Ikonen (the last tie we’ll have in this year’s series), with the votes at 14th edging the defenceman ahead of Ikonen, whose highest rank was 15th.

In my case, I put him at 18. I believe that his raw potential makes Struble an intriguing prospect who could rise with a good year in the NCAA.

David: My high ranking of the prospect speaks to how much I like his tools. Struble is incredibly athletic, with almost as perfect a foundation a prospect can have. Sure, physical attributes (strength, coordination, and quickness) are only the ‘‘base’’ of a prospect’s development, but Struble’s attributes also combined to create some striking sequences this season, like baiting opponents only to explode away from them, taking the puck across the offensive blue line or further into the zone, or ramming attackers in close to separate them from the puck and springing his own offence with a lob pass.

The more competitive and structured environment of the NCAA should help Struble get the best out of his abilities, and drastically reduce the moments where he looks disengaged or rushes himself with possession.

I’m optimistic. I don’t expect it will take long for him to turn into a player who can routinely make plays like the ones described above. On top of being very physically mature for such a young player (one of the youngest in the entire 2019 draft), he also radiates confidence. I think Struble becomes a very effective piece of Northeastern’s back end as soon as next season and will be relied upon more than the usual freshman — not unlike Jordan Harris last year.

History of #20

Year #20
Year #20
2018 Joni Ikonen
2017 Joe Morrow
2016 Jake Evans
2015 Jeremy Grégoire
2014 Daniel Audette
2013 Gabriel Dumont
2012 Blake Geoffrion
2011 Mark Mitera
2010 Ian Schultz

Strengths

Struble is very quick. He understands how to use his speed and can move up the ice in a hurry. His skating form is rough, yet very powerful. 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.

He is also 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. His lower-body strength is impressive and gives him an explosive element to his stride.

Rushes are Struble’s bread and butter. He understands how to use a variety of cuts to either slip through pressure or power through it. He can recognize moments when he can pass ahead to spark the attack or support it from a distance at the blue line. He is consistently supporting the rush, yet rarely saw his high-school teammates able to cash in on his efforts.

Jayden Struble wears #4 in the video below.

The defenceman finished first in quite a few categories at this year’s scouting combine. He totally dominated the bench press, mean power output, standing long jump and grip categories (both hands). His strength is unquestionable. It is important to take into account that some of those tests don’t seem to have much predictive value at this moment in time, but the standing long jump at least is a good measurement of explosiveness, which is something that is clearly visible in Struble’s skating ability.

A point of note: It was the second year in a row that Montreal picked one of the top performers in testing at the combine. Last year, Jack Gorniak, a draft re-entry, was selected in the fourth round of the draft after being among the top 10 prospects in nine events.

Struble has a wide array of tools that could help him become a point-producing player in the future. He’s agile and knows how to weave through opposing players, has a cannon of a shot — both his slapshot and wrister — and can dish out cross-ice passes easily. He loves playing physically, even becoming a net-front presence if the occasion arises.

His combination of physicality and four-direction mobility give him upside as a rush defender. He knows how to use his body both in the offensive and defensive zone, crushing opponents around the puck. He also excels in puck battles and body positioning, where his strength comes in handy.

Weaknesses

Despite all the good underlying tools, poor decision-making is common in his case. Struble is seen dumping the puck out when no one is pressuring him at times, and at others heading straight into dense traffic to try to stick-handle his way to the opposing goalie. Ill-advised pinches or reckless hits were also traits he showed in high-school action. Physicality is good when the team can benefit from the turnovers it creates, but making a hit just for the sake of it often puts a player out of position.

Consistency also remains an issue that limits his overall effectiveness. Sometimes, you’ll see him playing with seemingly little interested in the game. At the polar opposite end is Struble’s temper. His tendency to retaliate earned him some unnecessary penalty minutes last season. For someone willing to dish out so much physically, he needs to accept that others will try to do the same to him.

He doesn’t use his skating ability to its full potential on offence, sometimes getting caught in a stationary position inside the blue line. Improving his stick-handling in tight spaces — something he enjoys doing with possession — would allow him to keep the puck longer and increase the likelihood of creating a scoring chance.

Projection

Like many high schoolers making the jump to NCAA hockey, Struble looks to be a four-year project. He will be joining another Habs prospect on the blue line in Jordan Harris at Northeastern University this fall.

It may be unfair to expect Struble to integrate as seamlessly as Harris at the NCAA level. Yet a lighter schedule and a focus on developing his game, and his mental approach should help to refine his skills. He could quickly become a big part of the Huskies’ defence corps if he’s able to consistently use his best attributes.

He has a chance at becoming a top-four defender in the NHL if he keeps developing along the right path. Should his decision-making catch up to his athleticism and skill, he will become one of the organization’s better prospects.