Within National Hockey League circles, Jayden Struble now has a firm, set-in-stone mission.
Watching Saturday’s draft proceedings on NHL Network, Struble enjoyed the time-honored tradition of hugging family and close friends who joined him at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena before donning a Montreal Canadiens jersey for the first time – a jersey that already had his name stitched on the back of it.
The long trip to the Pacific Northwest proved to be well worth it as the Canadiens drafted the Cumberland native in the second round with the 46th overall pick.
“There are a lot of rumors and stories about where kids are going to go. As the draft unfolds, some kids are picked earlier than they’re presumed to be, while others are picked later,” said Sean McCann, who was Struble’s prep school head coach over the past two seasons at St. Sebastian’s (Mass.). “As it gets further along in the draft, it gets a little cloudier as far as where you might go, but obviously Montreal is a first-class organization. Jayden should be extremely happy with that.”
Placing the selection in more general terms, Struble was the 15th player taken on Day 2 of the NHL Draft, which lasted seven rounds. At the time of the life-changing news, Struble was the fifth defenseman off the board on the day as well as the sixth American-born prospect to hear his name called.
A left-handed shooting defenseman, Struble’s scouting report listed him at six feet and 205 pounds. The draft announcement came a few days after Struble learned he had been chosen for USA Hockey’s World Junior Summer Showcase that will be held July 28-August 4 in Plymouth, Mich. If Struble is selected, he will represent the U.S. National Junior Team that will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, which takes place each December.
McCann was in contact with many NHL teams prior to the draft, but Montreal wasn’t one of them.
“This gives him an organization that’s going to provide him with some direction and advice and help with development, which will be great for him,” said McCann.
Struble, who won’t turn 18 until September, will suit up for the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League. In the fall of 2020, the former Cumberland American Little League standout is planning to head to Northeastern University.
“It’s an incredible thrill. Great kid who comes from a great family. You’re happy for them because it’s not always easy to be the best athlete on the field all the time. You’ve got to be a little humble,” said Dave Belisle, who coached Struble in Little League and is also a bigtime Canadiens fan. “Jayden is a freak athlete who’s worked very hard. He was a friend to everyone on the team and never thought he was better than anyone else.
“No doubt, he’s going to make it because he’s physically and mentally strong,” Belisle added. “He loves the physical game. Baseball wasn’t enough for him. He needed to do more. He needed to hit something, but he also put a lot of pressure on himself to succeed. As coaches, we had to calm him down and say to him that he was doing unbelievable. There’s only so much you can do as a player, but the town is proud.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03