The Victoria Grizzlies lost four big pieces of their blue line at the end of this past season as Carter Berger, Jeremie Bucheler and Kenny Johnson move on to NCAA hockey, and Cole Noble joins Canada’s Royal Military College to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot in the Canadian Air Force.
So Grizzlies general manager and head coach Craig Didmon has been busy trying to fill the holes on Victoria’s back end.
Last week he landed Brown University-committed James Davenport from St. Sebastian’s School near Boston, and Thursday he dipped into that St. Sebastian’s pipeline again to sign soon-to-be NHL draft pick Jayden Struble.
Struble is a six-foot, 200-pound mobile defenceman who is ranked 48th by Central Scouting for next month’s NHL draft in Vancouver. The Cumberland, Rhode Island, native racked up 10 goals and 30 assists in 28 games for St. Sebastian’s this season. And when the 17-year-old, who already has an NCAA scholarship to Northeastern University in his back pocket, had the chance to join good friend Davenport on Vancouver Island, he jumped at the chance.
“I know [former Grizzlies forward Riley] Hughes as well and he had nothing but good things to say about Victoria, the team and the city, so I’m really excited to be joining the Grizzlies,” said Struble, over the phone from St. Sebastian’s.
“I want to take my game to the next level and I think I can do that in the BCHL and help the Grizzlies win.”
If Struble has any questions about the Grizzlies and Victoria, he can get them answered next week as he’s off to the NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo where Alex Newhook and Alex Campbell, the stars of this year’s Grizzlies squad, will also be in attendance.
“I’m excited about the combine and have been training hard for it,” said Struble, who has already talked to several NHL teams.
“And for sure I’ll try to talk to those two guys. I’ve heard they’re great players.”
Didmon expects Struble to have a smooth transition to the Grizzlies’ lineup.
“Jayden is a physical presence on the back end, but he’s also capable of providing offence so he’ll be a big addition to our club,” said Didmon.
Struble has never been to Victoria but does plan to be at Rogers Arena for the June 21-22 draft, so a trip over the water might also be on the itinerary.
“We may visit in the summer or maybe around the draft.”
While Newhook is moving on to Boston College, there’s a good chance Campbell returns for one more season with the Grizzlies, which would give Victoria at least two NHL draft picks, both likely second-rounders as Campbell goes into the draft ranked No. 42.
“That would be cool,” Struble said.