Canadiens: Jayden Struble Is Proving He Belongs

Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens
Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Jayden Struble is still just 11 games into his NHL career, but he’s making one thing clear: he has what it takes to be an NHL player. Struble got his opportunity with the Canadiens thanks to a rash of injuries, but he’s making a case to stay here. Of course, the two goals help, but his game has been impressive regardless of the production.

Drafted in the second round of the 2019 NHL draft, Struble had elite physical tools that had the Canadiens staff enamoured with his abilities. And you can see why. He’s physical but very mobile and also operates with a collected, calm approach that allows him to make smart, effective plays with the puck.

And he understands how to get involved offensively, as evidenced by both of his goals in his short NHL career. It’s plays like those that impress coaches and management and make future roster decisions that much harder, which isn’t a bad thing. Right now, Arber Xhekaj is on a conditioning stint in the AHL, but I can’t help but think he’d already be back up with the big club if Struble was struggling.

Now Struble isn’t entering his name into the rookie of the year conversation, and he doesn’t all of a sudden have top pairing potential, but he certainly looks like a capable NHLer already. And he’s still young, just turning 22 earlier this year. And he’s doing all this with just 34 games at the pro level (23 games with Laval, 11 with Montreal) under his belt.

So you can’t help but wonder how much room for development he still has and what a guy like Adam Nicholas – the Canadiens skills coach – can do with him with more hands-on work. As mentioned, he’s incredibly athletic, so you have to think that bodes well for his continued development and NHL future.

It is worth mentioning that while Struble is playing well, he’s had a pretty sheltered role thus far, which is okay. But it does mean, just like when a player is struggling, you have to be patient. You don’t want to anoint him too quickly; you just have to let him develop and continue getting more comfortable. Just due to the amount of talent the Habs have at LD, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get sent back down to Laval.

Remember, Xhekaj and Jordan Harris should both be returning soon, and I suspect Struble will be the unlucky guy in that equation. But the Canadiens have to be encouraged by what he has shown. Perhaps something comes from this stint in the near future…