Just because he was just cut from training camp, it’s far from the end of the world for Montreal Canadiens defensive prospect Josh Brook.
Sure, in an ideal world Brook would be on the fast track to superstardom as a member of the Habs. Instead of having been cut alongside forward Laurent Dauphin, Brook would be set to lace them up against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the two teams’ projected play-in series, scheduled to start this coming Saturday night.
Brook vs. Weber
It certainly wouldn’t be the craziest notion for a 21-year-old second-round draft pick to make an impact. For example, captain Shea Weber, who was drafted at No. 49 overall in 2003, made his NHL debut as a 20-year-old with the Nashville Predators.
Of course, Brook (No. 56; 2017) is no Weber. It’s important to adjust expectations accordingly. Brook admittedly and impressively lit up opponents to the tune of 75 points in 59 games in 2018-19, his final season with the Moose Jaw Warriors, as a speedy, puck-moving defenseman. However, compared to Weber’s first professional season, in which he scored 27 points in 46 American Hockey League games, ultimately getting called up to the show mid-season, Brook’s must have been incredibly humbling.
Brook managed just 13 points in 60 games with the Laval Rocket in his first complete professional season this past season. At one point, Laval head coach Joel Bouchard even played him at forward, which to many would seem like an indication he can’t play defense. You can practically hear boo birds calling him a bust as we speak. The move actually came after a pointless stretch for the young defenseman, so he obviously can’t score either now, right?
It’s easy for Habs fans, or fans of any team, to assume the success high-end prospects enjoy in junior will organically translate to the NHL. When a player doesn’t so much as earn a shot after a certain amount of time, say a single season, it’s natural for those same fans to assume the worst, that it’s not going to happen at all. Nothing could be further from the truth in many cases. Brook’s is likely one of the many.
Brook Gets His Shot
The fact of the matter is Brook’s invitation to training camp was kind of that shot. It was at least acknowledgement of the progress he’s made over the course of his one season with the Rocket, progress with which Bouchard was ultimately happy. After all, over 50 had been invited to last fall’s camp. Only 33 made it this time. And, no, Brook wasn’t able to move heaven and earth and impress the Habs enough to get the nod, but that doesn’t mean he blew it. Far from it.
Truth be told, it would have taken a miracle for him to make the final roster or more accurately a huge disaster on the injury front. It’s not as much an indictment of his lack of talent as much as it is his lack of NHL experience. As a right-handed defenseman, Brook, who has zero NHL games under his belt, skated on the fourth pairing beside Noah Juulsen on Day 2 of Phase 3.
Take note how this was without Weber practicing. So, Brook is actually No. 5 on the totem pole…. at least, because Juulsen, who can also play on the right, is arguably well ahead of him in terms of his development. Juulsen also deserves a shot right now, ahead of Brook, but that’s beside the point.
Brook’s Learning Experience
It all comes down to experience. Brook was always going to get cut. Because of the playoff-nature of this play-in series, expectations are drastically different for players who were trying to earn a spot now than out of training camp in the fall.
Despite the one-in-eight shot at drafting Alexis Lafreniere they get if they lose, the Canadiens are trying to beat the Penguins, as they should. The baby gloves aren’t just off to a greater extent than they would be normally. They’re locked away in head coach Claude Julien’s office back at the Bell Centre, with the Habs now safely in the Toronto bubble. There’s no time for mistakes, especially with the play-in series being a best-of-five affair instead of the usual best-of-seven.
Ultimately, Brook getting cut may be a disappointment, but it shouldn’t be, not even to him. In other words, Brook remains a promising prospect for the Canadiens. This isn’t the end of anything but a singular learning experience. It’s a mere stepping stone potentially to a long NHL career for a player who still very much projects as a top-four defenseman on this team, even if it’s a few years down the road. The Habs and their fans can wait. Haven’t you heard? It may not look it outside, but the world will keep on turning.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has also written for the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently writes about all things Habs for THW, with it being a career highlight for him to have covered the 2021 Stanley Cup Final as a credentialed member of the press.