Whenever there is a discussion about what the Boston Bruins will look like whenever life after Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci finally arrives, Jack Studnicka is usually the first name that comes up. A second-round pick in 2017, Studnicka is believed to be the next bona fide top six, two-way centerman in the B’s pipeline.
But Studnicka also knows that Bergeron and Krejci aren’t going anywhere just yet. He also wants to get to the NHL as soon as he can, and he’ll do whatever he can to get himself there. He’s already reminded the B’s brass that he played right wing at the World Junior Championship, don’t you know.
“He’s a smart kid and he knows where the open spots are up here,” said player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner.
Studnicka feels he’s ready to help Boston with whatever it takes.
“Anything to help the team, in my eyes. I’ll play any position. Obviously, my goal is to play with the big club, whether that’s right wing or center, I’m just going to work as hard as I can and compete,” said Studnicka, who is being kept off the ice for this Development Camp because of how long his season went.
He’d hardly be the first natural centerman to break into the NHL as a wing. Bergeron, who has made himself the consummate NHL center over the last decade and a half, broke in as an 18-year-old wing.
Whether that’s what the organization decides is the best way to proceed with Studnicka remains to be seen. Both Langenbrunner and GM Don Sweeney have stressed that they will not rush Studnicka, and there’s some precedence for making sure a player is good and ready. Jake DeBrusk was kept in Providence his entire rookie pro year, even after his play argued for him to get at least a sniff with the big club. But when September of 2017 rolled around, there was no stopping him from making the team, and in a top-six role no less.
But the player has every right to think he’s ready for the big time, and Studnicka is shooting for a spot in the Boston lineup for Oct. 3 in Dallas.
“That’s my goal,” said Studnicka. “I think going into any camp, you’re in the wrong place if you’re goal isn’t to make the team. That’s my goal going into this year, that was my goal last year and the year before. It should be everybody’s goal to come here and try and compete and play at a high level.”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Studnicka finished off his junior career well, posting 36-47-83 totals in 60 games between Oshawa and Niagara, and 5-6-11 in 11 playoff games for the IceDogs. He also got in four playoff games with Providence and had a goal and an assist
“He was very good,” said Langebrunner. “I think a testament to who that kid is, he gets traded to Niagara and he’s wearing a letter to the team he was traded to within a month. That’s impressive. That means you’re stepping right in and doing the things coaches see from leaders. Good season. He continues to do the little things in the game that translate to being a good pro, When he came to us in Providence at the end, he had some good playoff games, stepped right into the lineup. (Niagara) lost on a Sunday or Monday and he was in our lineup three days later. He’s just continuing to grow, adding strength. He’s still skinny. He’s working at it, he’s doing everything he can, it’s just taking a little time with him.”
Providence coach Jay Leach also mentioned his frame and that adding an additional 5-10 pounds would probably be ideal. But he also doesn’t believe Studnicka’s narrow build will hold hold him back, either, comparing his wiry strength to Bergeron’s when the latter first broke into the league. He’s had Studnicka for two end-of-the-season stints (Studnicka had 1-4-5 totals in five regular season games two years ago) and has been impressed.
“The No. 1 impression for Jack is just his competitiveness,” said Leach. “We had him two years ago, too, and he came in and was right in the mix, against men. That’s first and foremost against Jack, whether I’m playing him on the fourth line and hes playing eight minutes or this past year where he was playing a lot in crucial situations, he’s a gamer...I’m sure maturity and pounds will come, but he is certainly someone that you just right away know he’ there to compete and he’s a player.”
Studnicka also earned a spot among the Black Aces, a squad of possible injury replacements for Boston’s varsity squad during the playoffs.
“That was awesome,” said Studnicka. “One of the best times of my life. You get to watch the Stanley Cup Final live. You get to travel with the team and see what it’s all about and you can just soak things in. Obviously, it was the stage for them and they deserved to be there. An unfortunate ending, but to be there to see it all unfold right in front of my eyes was really cool.”
But next year, Studnicka hopes to create his own great thrills, not just vicarious ones.