Bruins

Jack Studnicka the next great hope for the Bruins at center position

Jack Studnicka the next great hope for the Bruins at center position

Jack Studnicka didn’t participate in any of the on-ice activities during Bruins development camp a couple of weeks ago, but the 20-year-old clearly remains Boston’s best hope as a top-6 center of the future as he approaches his first full pro season.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound center skated with the Black Aces and served as a reserve for the Bruins during their Stanley Cup playoff run, so he had been skating up until the Final ended in early June. That was the reason for his absence from the ice, but he still participated in the week, served as a leader among the Bruins prospects and continued to sound a determined, confident tone when it comes to helping the NHL team.

It won’t happen, of course, but Studnicka is so intent on getting to the NHL as fast as possible that he volunteered to play wing this coming season while knowing that the Bruins will have openings on the wing in NHL training camp.

“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, talking to the Bruins media with a pair of missing front teeth after an incident in the OHL last season. “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.”

That’s the sound of a kid that’s hungry to get to The Show.

That’s excellent news for the Bruins with a pair of top-6 centers in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci that are on the wrong side of 30 years old. They could really use some young blood down the middle when it comes to their top-6, even if it’s a player that’s NHL-ready a year or two down the road, as both Bergeron and Krejci hit their mid-30’s.

The numbers were excellent in his final season at the junior level with 36 goals and 83 points for Oshawa and Niagara in 60 games played for them, and another 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in 11 playoff games before going pro. During that time he showed off the playmaking, the goal-scoring, the two-way play and the leadership that’s been part of the package since he was drafted in the second round back (53rdoverall) in 2017.

“I think I can contribute offensively and that’s what I’m going to be looking to do,” said Studnicka. “And just compete. Doing all the little things right. That’s something the Bruins always talk about along with winning battles. I just want to show them that I can compete at the NHL level.”

It’s a game the Bruins are looking forward to developing up close at the AHL level in 2019-20 and then deciding how quickly his ascension will be to the NHL level. One of his potential competitors for an NHL spot has gone back to Sweden in Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and another in Trent Frederic doesn’t have quite the same high-end offensive ability that Studnicka should have when he gains full maturity as a hockey player.

“He was very good,” said Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner. “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. [He had a] 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 and he’s doing everything he can. It’s just taking a little time with him.”

Studnicka had a goal and two points in four playoff games for the Providence Bruins at the end of the AHL season, and then practiced all spring with the Bruins while traveling with the NHL team and getting an up-close look at their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

That experience made him equal parts adept learner and anxious reserve awaiting for his own chance to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But there’s no substitute for getting to watch Krejci and Bergeron prepare every day, even if it was from the outside watching inward.

“That was awesome,” said Studnicka. “One of the best times of my life. You get to watch the Stanley Cup Finals 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.

“[It was] an unfortunate ending, but to be there to see it all unfold right in front of my eyes was really cool. [Bergeron and Krejci] are two high-end players in the National Hockey League, they have been for a long time and they will continue to do that. So you see what they do on the ice that’s given them success over all those years.”

Hopefully Studnicka was paying close to attention to No. 37 and No. 46 during the playoffs because he might just be called upon to help them as soon as next season if he shows that is game is NHL-ready at his next development phase in Providence.

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Kevan Miller (kneecap) ruled out for the start of the season for Bruins

Kevan Miller (kneecap) ruled out for the start of the season for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – The good news is that the Bruins have Charlie McAvoy back in the fold after he signed a three-year contract on Sunday morning.

The bad news is that the B’s also confirmed today that a second player won’t be ready to go on opening night as Kevan Miller (fractured kneecap) isn’t going to be ready for the Oct. 3 season opener against the Dallas Stars. Miller is coming off a pair of fractured kneecaps, among several injuries, that limited him to just 39 games played last season and kept him out of the entire run to the Stanley Cup Final for the Bruins.

The 31-year-old Miller joins fellow defenseman John Moore, who will also be out at the start of the regular season as he returns from summer shoulder surgery. Clearly that’s going to leave a couple of open spots on the back end even when the Bruins have both McAvoy and Brandon Carlo signed and playing, but the injuries will also enable the Bruins to use the cap space occupied by Miller ($2.5 million) and Moore ($2.75 million) while they are on long term injured reserve to start the season.

“It depends on the term of the next deal, but the opportunity to [use LTIR] is there if we need to,” said Sweeney. “Moore isn’t going to start the season and [Kevan Miller] isn’t going to be ready to start the season.

“Miller’s timeline isn’t going to be opening day. He hasn’t even been on the ice yet. He’s got a test coming around [Sept.] 24 and that will determine his next step in rehab. We’re going to be very cautious with the next steps with Kevan for a healthy return.”

That means the Bruins will be able to go beyond the $3.2 million they currently hold in salary cap space with the unsigned Carlo still waiting for his agreement.

Another Bruins health update that’s a little more positive: Patrice Bergeron is expected to join the main training camp practice group on Monday after sitting out the first on-ice weekend of training camp while recovering from a lingering groin issue this summer.

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Bruins sign Charlie McAvoy to a three-year deal that's extremely fair when all things are considered

Bruins sign Charlie McAvoy to a three-year deal that's extremely fair when all things are considered

BRIGHTON, Mass – The pieces are starting to come into place for the Bruins with the Sunday morning news that B’s defenseman Charlie McAvoy has signed a contract for three years with an AAV of $4.9 million per season. This puts the 21-year-old defenseman in the exact same neighborhood as fellow RFA defenseman and future No. 1 guy Zach Werenski, who last week signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Some may think it’s an amazing steal for the Bruins because they bought into the hype that McAvoy was going to get a 6-8 year deal paying him upwards of $7 million per season, but that was never realistic with the talented young blueliner. McAvoy has missed almost 50 games in his first two NHL seasons due to injury and illness, and as a less than full-fledged restricted free agent he wasn’t able to receive offer sheets due to his service time at the NHL.

McAvoy had very little leverage headed into the negotiations, and truth be told he’s fortunate to be getting a comparable contract to the more accomplished Werenski all things considered.

From the Bruins perspective, they’ve locked up their future franchise defenseman for the next three seasons on a bridge deal that will still leave him a couple of seasons shy of unrestricted free agency. For now it leaves the Bruins with enough cap space (roughly $3.2 million according to capfriendly.com) to sign fellow RFA defenseman Brandon Carlo with very little need to cut cap costs on the NHL roster.

The contract gives McAvoy a pretty healthy payday, of course, but it also leaves him with the chance to stay healthy and fully realize his potential over the next three seasons. McAvoy was excellent in the postseason for the Bruins while averaging 24:30 of ice time during the 24-game run and simply needs to stay healthy to develop into the future No. 1 D-man and heir apparent in Boston to Zdeno Chara.

He's averaged just seven goals and 30 points over his first two NHL seasons and has battled some fairly uncommon health issues along the way, so the production on the ice just wasn’t there for a bigger deal either.  

The Bruins will now have three years to make certain the 6-foot, 208-pound D-man just ran into a little bit of bad luck with the health stuff over his first two years.

If all goes according to plan, the Bruins are going to be paying McAvoy a much bigger deal three years down the line. But at that point they’ll have moved on from some of their current contracts, will have more cap space to negotiation and will happily pay their young D-man if he turns into the perennial Norris Trophy candidate he should become if can stay on the ice.

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