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Struble: Measuring up against the best

Defenseman has enjoyed having the opportunity to test his skills against 'high-talent' players at development camp

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - With a full day of development camp behind him, scrimmages and all, defenseman Jayden Struble is starting to get a sense of the grind that goes into playing hockey at the highest level.

"I'd say it's more a physical grind, your legs are a little tired. You have a lot of stuff, the days are kinda kind of jammed up, but you get through it," shared Struble, the Canadiens' second-round pick (46th overall) in 2019. "And it's just a privilege to be here, so I'm enjoying every second of it."

After taking part in on-ice sessions in the morning on Wednesday, Struble got his first taste of 'game' action later in the day when the Habs' prospects and camp invitees took part in a pair of 20-minute scrimmages on the Bell Sports Complex ice.

For Struble, the scrimmages are a chance to make his mark, but he also recognized that they were part of the educational process.

"Whenever you're on the ice, you want to have a good showing; you want to show what you've got," explained the Cumberland, RI native after Thursday's on-ice sessions. "But for me, it's more just taking everything in and learning. There are so many great guys you can learn from here."

Struble singled out centermen Ryan Poehling and Nick Suzuki as two players he enjoyed playing against - and using as a measuring stick for his ability to go up against the opposition's top offensive threats.

"There are a lot of great players here, whether it's Suzuki, Poehling... there's a lot of high talent here. And you realize, 'I can I can defend these guys', and it's not as big of a gap as you think. I definitely have to improve on a lot of things and get a lot better, but it's good to see where you fall against these high-talent guys."

The 17-year-old, who finished at the top in five testing categories at the NHL Combine in Buffalo, hasn't firmed up his plans for next season. He could either end up with the BCHL's Victoria Grizzlies or in the NCAA with the Northeastern University Huskies.

In case he goes straight to college, Struble has already started picking the brains of his future teammates there - namely, goaltender Cayden Primeau and defenseman Jordan Harris.

"They said they loved it. I haven't heard a bad thing about it yet. I love the coaches; I can't say a bad thing about them," described Struble, who scored 10 goals for 40 points last season with St. Sebastians School. "I'm really excited, I have Northeastern and the Canadiens. It's two great organizations to look forward to playing for."

Video: Jayden Struble on development camp

Fellow defenseman Josh Brook has already gotten a sense of high-level hockey after joining the Laval Rocket following the end of his season with the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors, and admitted that playing in the AHL was a bit of an adjustment.

"It was a bigger step, but the coaches helped me learn a lot and I learned a lot through practicing with the pros," recounted Brook, who picked up one assist in seven contests with Joel Bouchard's squad. "Just watching them day in and day out, I learned a lot."

Video: Josh Brook on his preparations for next season

A bit like Struble, Brook's hockey destination for 2019-20 may still be up in the air but he intends on putting his amateur career in the rearview mirror.

"My expectation is to obviously try and make the Canadiens. But if not, then it's to try to make Laval. I have to push to make one of the pro teams," concluded Brook. "I don't want to go back to Junior; I want to play pro."

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