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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Who will be next to 700 goals now that Alex Ovechkin has done it? It sure feels like David Pastrnak

Who will be next to 700 goals now that Alex Ovechkin has done it? It sure feels like David Pastrnak

Alex Ovechkin left no doubt about his 700th career goal in the NHL when he scored it on Saturday afternoon, and good for him.

It came from the opposite face-off circle from where No. 8 does most of his damage for the Washington Capitals power play, but it was still an Ovie one-time rocket that he roofed past New Jersey goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. It’s really the way any milestone NHL goal should be for a legendary NHLer like Ovechkin.

It was one of many things to celebrate about the NHL on a jam-packed Saturday in February and it also reminded everybody the 34-year-old Capitals star is the premier goal-scorer and game-breaker of his generation. With 42 goals already on his ledger for this season while on a pace for 57 goals, it’s also clear the Russian scoring machine isn’t all that close to slowing down either.

He may pass by Mike Gartner (708 goals) on the all-time list as early as this season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Wayne Gretzky’s NHL-record 894 career goals could be attainable for Ovie as well. He’d have to play until he was 40 years old and continue to average 40 goals per season, but Ovechkin has put himself in position to at least have a shot at the Great One.

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It all begs the question as to which player will be next to hit the 700 goals milestone in the NHL.

Steve Stamkos may get there with 422 career goals at 30 years old with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he’s probably got the best chance of any NHL player over the age of 25 years old. He’s on pace for 39 goals this season and would need to stay on that pace until he was 37 years old to reach that mark, a possibility given his work ethic, his status in Tampa Bay, and an offensive game that’s centered around his one-timer on the power play.

But the guy with perhaps the best shot to get there in the future?

It’s got to be 23-year-old Bruins superstar David Pastrnak, who leads the NHL with 45 goals after scoring two more in Saturday night’s 9-3 loss to the Canucks, and is on pace for 60 goals and 115 points in a monster season for the Black and Gold.

Pastrnak is going to finish this season close to 200 career goals at just 23 years old, and arguably has 15 good seasons in front of him based on dazzling offensive skills once again prominently reliant on a deadly one-timer from the face-off dot.

All Pastrnak has to do is average 35 goals per season until he’s 38 years old to reach the 700-goal milestone at 38 years old, and he’ll get close to 800 career goals if he can average 40 goals per season over the next decade-and-a-half. Obviously, it’s dependent on Pastrnak remaining healthy and productive for a long, long time, but the Bruins right winger is in a position to accomplish some of these things after entering the NHL as its youngest player during his 2014-15 NHL rookie season.

Certainly, Pastrnak’s coach thinks he can get there, and the winger should be in line for massive numbers as long as he’s part of the Perfection Line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

“I’m going to say Pasta because I love the kid, and he’s young, and he’s scoring,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked who might be the next 700-goal guy in the NHL. “I think it’s always about health, it’s always [about] are you surrounded by good players to help you? I mean, if you’re the only guy out there on your team, I think it would be hard every night for 82 games to try to push that. [Pastrnak] has got good support. Yeah, I think he’s one of those guys. I haven’t looked close enough to [Steven] Stamkos’ age to see what – because you always have to project, but in terms of the younger guys, Laine could be that guy because he has such a terrific shot; you tend not to lose that. He’s always going to be on the power play. That’s what’s helped Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] obviously to be able to maintain his sort of marks on the power play.

“But I think a lot of it has to do with health. I would have to think about that one a little bit more about which guys probably after two, three years. Is [Nikita] Kucherov in that mix? Does he score enough, or does he pass too much? Brayden Point scores a lot of goals, but he’s also a disher at times. I think it does take a certain amount of shot-first mentality if you’re going to challenge that many. Auston

Matthews probably has to be in that conversation as well, the way he shoots the puck. There are guys out there, [but] it’s probably just a little early to predict with those younger guys.”

Similar to Pastrnak, the 22-year-old Matthews would need to average 35 goals per season for the next 15 years to get to the 700-goal mark. That’s a doable thing for a former No. 1 overall pick and a player that’s on pace for 56 goals of his own this season for the Maple Leafs. The same with 24-year-old Leon Draisaitl, who will finish with around 170 career goals after this season and would need to average 35 goals per season until he was 39 years old to reach that mark as well.

Put all of it together and it feels like Pastrnak and Matthews are the two most likely candidates to be the next 700-goal guys in the league, so let’s put this article in a time capsule and release it 15 years from now to how it all actually played out.

Bruins-Canucks Talking Points: Tyler Toffoli shows B's what they missed out on

Bruins-Canucks Talking Points: Tyler Toffoli shows B's what they missed out on

GOLD STAR: There were plenty of strong candidates for the Canucks in their blowout win, but give the credit to Tyler Toffoli for scoring a pair of goals in his second game for Vancouver since coming over in the trade with the LA Kings.

Toffoli is already making an impact with points in each of his two games for the Canucks while injuries are impacting their roster, but he was especially strong on Sunday with the two goals, three points and a plus-3 rating in 14:50 of ice time.

Beyond that, he matched Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat for the team-high with five shots on net as well while showing the Bruins what they missed out on by peeling back on the Toffoli trade talks. He was an impact player for the Canucks while Ondrej Kase continues to be on the sidelines hurt and not ready to play quite yet for the B’s.  

BLACK EYE: No shots on net and a minus-4 rating for Danton Heinen on a disastrously bad night for Boston’s second line. Heinen and David Krejci both tied for the team-worst with the minus-4 ratings and there was zero offensive push from Krejci, Heinen and Jake DeBrusk while an incredibly hungry, rested Vancouver team was waiting for them.

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The problem now for guys like Heinen is that their days with the Bruins are numbered now that Ondrej Kase is coming into the fold with a mandate to take opportunities away from them. It might even be that Heinen gets dealt given the surplus of middle-6 forwards on this Bruins roster right now. Heinen made a compelling case to not be a guy that sticks around in the loss to Vancouver.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were only losing 2-1 after the first period of play and things didn’t seem so bad for them at that point. But the weight of playing five back-to-back games this month finally left some collateral damage with the B’s when they fell apart in the final 40 minutes of the game.

Sloppy puck possession and good old-fashioned lack of execution led to three more goals being scored by Vancouver in the second period despite being outshot by a 12-8 margin and the rout was one once it was a 5-1 deficit for the Black and Gold. Truthfully, the Bruins never felt like they were in this game at all and they proved it with the way they played in the last couple of periods against the Canucks in humbling, embarrassing defeat.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak scored a pair of goals to push the Bruins sniper to 45 goals on the season. Pastrnak continues to lead the NHL in goals scored and is now pushing toward 50 goals scored on the season with just five remaining until he reaches a historic plateau that hasn’t been done in the Bruins uniform since Bruins President Cam Neely did it himself during his prime years in Black and Gold.

Pastrnak finished with the two goals scored and six shot attempts for the Bruins, but even he finished a minus-2 rating while just about every forward line didn’t get it done on multiple levels for the Bruins.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20 – the number of years since the Canucks had a player with a Gordie Howe hat trick prior to Bo Horvat getting it done for Vancouver in Sunday’s win.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Tonight clearly we were not the better team. We didn’t deserve to win. We didn’t do what was required to win and we didn’t have much luck our way either. I think we’ve got the full value for a majority of the wins we’ve had coming out of the break, but tonight they were the better and hungrier team. - Bruce Cassidy, on the NESN postgame about the 9-3 loss to the Canucks in Vancouver.