The last time we checked in on Montreal Canadiens defenceman Jayden Struble, his numbers were a little hard to believe.
But it was not a case of a player providing underwhelming results. Struble’s stats were flat-out excellent, with the important caveat that he had only played seven games in the NHL.
And Struble enjoyed a fantastic start to his NHL career, things can change in a hurry, especially when we’re dealing with a small sample size. One terrible game can quickly muddy the waters.
But now that he has reached the 16-game mark we can establish a stronger baseline, giving us insight as to what we should expect if Struble is kept in the NHL for the rest of the season.
Struble’s Impact On the Montreal Canadiens Blueline
Before we start discussing his numbers, we have to remember Struble plays on the third pairing. This entails easier usage, to a certain extent. He faces a lower quality of competition, however, his quality of teammates also tends to be lower than defencemen on the first and second pairing.
He also starts almost 60 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, which always helps when it comes to maintaining strong possession numbers. It’s par for the course when discussing the usage of a rookie defenceman, mind you. And not all defencemen take advantage of their sheltered situation.
But Struble has.
He currently ranks second among all Montreal Canadiens defencemen in shot share (50.1 CF%) and expected goals (50.7 xGF%). Relative to his teammates, no other player makes more of an offensive impact (shots for per 60) on the blueline and he also happens to be second on the team when it comes to defensive impact (shots against per 60).
Simply put, when Struble is on the ice, he makes the Canadiens a much better team, even when his usage is kept in mind.
And he also looked good on Thursday night when he was paired with fellow Northeastern alumnus Jordan Harris. The two controlled well over 70 percent of the expected goals, a rather encouraging sign for a newly-formed pairing.
— HockeyStatCards (@hockeystatcards) December 29, 2023
It’s important to keep the pairings in mind going forward, especially since the only player who has enjoyed more success on the Canadiens’ blueline from a statistical standpoint is currently playing in the AHL.
Yes, that’s right, Arber Xhekaj leads the Habs in most of the important statistical categories, including shot share and expected goals. Another way of putting it is that the Habs are a worse team when Xhekaj is not in the lineup.
Of course, it’s easy to state certain defencemen deserve NHL usage. It’s much harder to fill out an NHL roster, especially when the blueline is populated by young players.
But if the statistics hold any value, they suggest that both Struble and Xhekaj have their place in the NHL.
All Montreal Canadiens numbers are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via NaturalStatTrick.