Things will be different for the NHL when the league does resume the 2019-20 season, and that extends to teams' rosters as well.
There will be no continuation of the AHL season if the NHL players get going again over the next couple of months, but there is expected to be an expanded NHL roster that would include extra players from the American League.
They will essentially serve as the “Black Aces” like during the NHL postseason while practicing with the team and potentially getting inserted into the lineup if/when injuries do strike.
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Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach pointed toward young forwards like Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic as players who would be in the mix for an expanded roster role in Boston, and it’s just as likely that guys like Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen would be included in that NHL-ready group as well.
For his part, the 21-year-old Studnicka has been working out and roller-blading in Michigan over the last couple of months and stands ready to contribute if his number is called.
Certainly, Studnicka could be a big factor as his 23 goals and 49 points in 60 games for the P-Bruins would attest in his first pro season. He’s got the skill to play center or wing if needed and he’s still building strength into his 6-foot frame.
“I’m going to be ready. I feel ready,” said Studnicka, who got his feet wet with two NHL games this season including an NHL debut in the Bell Centre against the Canadiens. “I haven’t heard much on the topic. You see the rumors about what the plan is and I would love for a scenario like that to play out. Hopefully the NHL comes back and I’m able to be a part of it. That’s something I’d definitely be looking forward to.
“Last year I went through the experience of [being a Black Ace] to see the competition live and it was unbelievable. This time around hopefully we come out on the other side. I feel like I’ve had a good season down in Providence and proved that I could help the organization win. Whether they decide if it’s as a Black Ace or playing [games], that’s for them to decide. I’m willing to do whatever they ask when the time comes.”
Clearly the 22-year-old Frederic could help as well with a sturdy 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame to go along with eight goals and 32 points in 59 games and a whopping 148 penalty minutes. Frederic didn’t hesitate to drop the gloves this season while leading the AHL in fighting majors, but it was toughness and physicality up front that would be of big-time use to the Black and Gold.
“I don’t think anybody has a clue because from what I understand, we won’t know the size of the group,” said Leach during a Monday Zoom conference call with reporters, when asked if he could identify which P-Bruins skaters would be with the Boston team if and when NHL play resumes. “This is just my best guess, but I think it’s the guys that we talk about.
“It’s [Jack] Studnicka, it’s [Trent] Frederic. If we’re talking five guys it would be Studnicka, Frederic, Zboril, Vaakanainen and [Steve] Kampfer. I think [Karson] Kuhlman would be in that mix too since he’d been in Boston before. It’s tough to nail down, but that’s who I’d be going with to start. Where does it end? It depends on what the limit is and what they’re going to need. I don’t think anybody can forecast that right now. I can tell you there are plenty of candidates.”
Clearly there will need to be a healthy number of substitute players as nobody knows for sure how many players could end up getting sidelined if a player were to test positive for COVID-19 once play resumes.
And some of Boston’s best and brightest prospects would be a good place to start when fortifying a Bruins roster for what’s expected to be a slew of unknowns over the next few months.