BROSSARD - Josh Brook wasn't in Chicago when the Canadiens drafted him in the second round (56th overall) in June, but he had a good excuse: he was at grad.
Brook was put in the impossible position of having to choose between two once-in-a-lifetime milestone events.
"I talked to my agents, and I knew I wasn't going to go in the first round. I knew I had grad the same day, and a lot of family was talking about coming out for it," explained the young Manitoban. "They're the ones who helped me along the way growing up - driving me around, always supporting me - and I just thought that it would be an awesome day to be with them. It was; I wouldn't take back what I did.
"I was at home. I was watching the TV waiting for it, and I got a phone call from my agents right before it happened," recalled the 18-year-old. "They congratulated me, and I had to look up at the TV to see what for, and it popped up. Everyone went nuts in my house, it was awesome. My phone exploded."
The Brook household may have been elated regardless of which team called his name, but the fact it was Montreal made the celebration that much sweeter.
"I was so happy that it was this organization. I had a very good talk with them, they seemed very interested in me. That's what I wanted - a team that wants me," added the Moose Jaw Warrior, of the Western Hockey League. "I think they see a bright future in me. I'm very happy."
The day was momentous for another reason, as it marked a changing of allegiance for Brook. The native of Roblin, MB grew up cheering for the Vancouver Canucks, but Brook asserts those days are done.
"It's over," he exclaimed, "I'm a Canadiens fan now!"
Brook will be heading back to Junior next season, and he's already identified what he'll be working on this coming year.
"A lot of little things I need to touch up on. I definitely need to work on my defensive-zone (coverage) and on keeping my feet moving at all times - I felt I got caught flat-footed a couple of times," confided the 6-foot-1, 182-pounder, who lists skating and passing as his two biggest strengths. "There are a ton of things I need to work on to get to the next level."
If his year-over-year progression from his first WHL season in 2015-16 to last season is any indication, he's heading in the right direction. Quadrupling his point total in 2016-17 from 10 to 40 to lead all Moose Jaw blue-liners in that category, Brook also improved his stats on the other side of the puck, improving from a plus-2 differential as a rookie to a plus-17 in his sophomore season. His two goals and 12 assists with the man advantage helped the young rearguard lead his team in power play points last year.
The Canadiens' development camp, which took place in early July, was a big learning experience for Brook. The fact he got to see his new team's facilities was an added bonus.
"I came here expecting a lot, and I saw a lot more than what I expected. It's just amazing," praised Brook. "You never stop learning; you always have to keep watching other guys, learning stuff, listen to the coaches and guys on the ice.
"I learned a ton, so it's a process. I'm going to try to add everything into my game to be the best I can be," he continued. "I feel I learned a lot about myself playing in these (intra-squad) games, and I figured out what I need to work on a bit more. It was a great experience for me."
Brook is spending the summer training at Crash Conditioning in Calgary. The plan? "Just skate a ton and try to improve, get ready for the next step."