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Reminder: Kent Hughes didn’t expect Jayden Struble to play

For the past few weeks, since the Canadiens’ trip to California, Jayden Struble has been an important part of the Canadiens’ defence.

Obviously, he doesn’t play as much as Mike Matheson, and expectations aren’t the same. That said, no one is asking him to save the club and play 22 minutes a game.

What the Habs are asking him to do is play his game (in the game) and keep his game simple. And that’s what he’s doing.

By keeping his club out of trouble, bringing a tough element to the rink and making himself at home, it’s getting harder and harder to get him out of the lineup.

That’s why, in Sunday’s game against the Nashville Predators, it was Gustav Lindstrom who was scooped up on David Savard’s return to action – and not Struble. #PlayWithMerit

Currently, the Canadiens have seven active defensemen in their 23-man roster. They can be divided as follows:

Matheson – Savard
Guhle – Barron
Struble – Kovacevic

The crazy thing about all this is that when Struble was recalled, Kent Hughes didn’t even think he’d play. As he told “The Sick Podcast – The Eye Test” recently, he recalled the American for depth.

But when he called him back, he told him he didn’t think he’d play.

Struble deserved his recall because he was the best defenseman in Laval and because he had trained hard over the summer, but the Greek God still wasn’t guaranteed anything.

The goal? To see him train with NHLers and get some reinforcements. But his performances, as we said, taught us that it was getting harder and harder to think of taking him out of the line-up.

Right now, he belongs with the club. With Arber Xhekaj down and Jordan Harris on the injured list(for another two weeks, or so), the Habs can play Struble.

But what happens when Harris returns?

It’s important to remember that, apart from Struble, only two Canadiens defensemen can go to Laval without going through the waivers: Kaiden Guhle and Justin Barron. And I don’t see the guys in the second defensive pairing being traded to the Rocket.

If the Habs have to send a defenseman to Laval (assuming Matheson, Savard, Guhle, Barron, Harris and Kovacevic don’t go down), that leaves Struble and Lindstrom.

Note that Harris is now eligible for waivers, so no, the Habs won’t do what they did with Xhekaj.

Lindstrom is a candidate for another waivers vote the day the Habs have to cut a defenseman, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. If Struble wants to keep his place in the sun, he’ll have to overtake Lindstrom in the hierarchy… to the point where the Habs risk using the waivers for the European.

But the Habs aren’t there yet. And let’s also note that the Habs could decide, in due course, to go with three goalies, eight defensemen and 12 forwards eventually.

If Struble makes himself indispensable, keeping more defenders up top (and breaking out the good old formula of 11 forwards and seven defenders once in a while) is not a scenario to be ruled out. But for that to happen, Struble has to earn it and remain consistent.

In a gaggle

– What do you think?

– Extraordinary.

– Really?

– A good challenge in junior.

– Ah well.

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