Canadiens prospect Josh Brook out to prove he’s a complete defenceman

Max Domi of the Montreal Canadiens joined Tim and Sid to talk his comfort level with the media, his love for Montreal and much more.

BROSSARD, Que.— It’s Friday morning at Montreal Canadiens rookie camp and Josh Brook is deeply engaged in an offensive-zone drill.

The puck comes up to the 6-foot-1, 200-pound defenceman at the right point and he skates it down the wall before pivoting and dishing it off to a cycling forward. From there he cross-cuts his way to below the goal line and then makes a hard slash to the front of the net for a rebound chance. The sequence then ends as he powers his way back to the blue line to relieve the forward that was covering his position.

In less than 15 seconds, Brook has covered nearly every square inch of the zone. He’s exhibited the type of mobility that had me comparing him to high-flying Dallas Stars defenceman John Klingberg back in July, after I watched him motor through drills at Canadiens development camp.

About that: When I passed that idea by Brook two months ago, he was certainly flattered. But he wasn’t in full agreement with that assessment.

“I’m more two-way,” Brook said.

That’s certainly the type of player he wants to be.

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Of course, it was his offence—and his use as somewhat of a rover in 59 games with the Western Hockey League’s Moose Jaw Warriors last season—that influenced this comparison. He was all over the ice, scoring 16 goals and 75 points and finishing as the league’s highest-scoring defenceman. So you’ll have to forgive me for thinking of him as more of an offensive type.

If the general perception is that Brook is one-dimensional, he intends to change it. He came to rookie camp this year wanting to prove that he’s an all-around player.

“Like (Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis Blues captain) Alex Pietrangelo,” the Roblin, Man., native said. “I like the way he plays. He’s not totally offensive, but he has offensive skills and I think he’s really good defensively.”

Fellow Canadiens prospect Ryan Poehling can see it. On Friday he compared Brook to a right-handed Ryan Suter, a 14-year vet who’s amassed 540 points while earning a reputation as one of the hardest players to play against in his own zone over 1073 NHL games.

“He’s a great player,” said Poehling of Brook. “He knows how he needs to play and that’s what he does, so I respect that. He’s a hard player, he’s a puck-moving defenceman, and I’d like to think he’ll do very well.”

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Laval Rocket coach Joel Bouchard, who’s running this camp, agrees. The American Hockey League bench boss has known Brook for four years dating back to his days as a general manager for Hockey Canada. In Brook, he sees a dedicated athlete who’s in possession of a game that can translate to hockey’s highest level, and he also sees a young person who’s wise beyond his years.

“He’s a professional,” said Bouchard after Friday’s practice. “He cares. He wants to be a hockey player and that I always knew. He’s willing to understand and accept teaching, direction. It’s fun as a coach to have a guy who’s taking direction. There’s stuff that he needs to be better in his game, like everybody else. He’s no different than any other guy. He’s a young defenceman. It’s a tough position. He’s having a really good growth as a person and as a hockey player. So for me he’s just one of those guys we’re talking about. He’s there, he’s putting in the work, he came in great shape, he wants to be better, he’s passionate, he has a goal to be an NHL player.”

For Brook, who was drafted by the Canadiens 56th overall in 2017, that meant sticking around Montreal for the summer after graduating to the Rocket and appearing in his first seven professional games towards the end of last season.

He was given the assignment to improve his shot, to build up his upper body, and to focus on the details of his game, and he turned to Canadiens trainers and strength and conditioning specialists to help him do all of it.

The results?

“I think I’ve had a significant improvement,” Brook said. “Got stronger, getting more point shots through. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m working towards it.

“On the ice, I just want to work on perfecting myself defensively. That’s where it all starts as a defenceman. I want to work from my end out, work on my board battles, making good first passes out of the zone, boxing out and stuff like that.”

It’s not the eye-catching stuff Brook routinely does at the other end of the ice, but it’s the stuff that’s going to get him to the next level.

“I just want to be a pro, keep working on getting better,” Brook said.

He’s moving quickly in that direction.

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