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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Don Sweeney opens up about Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo contract talks

Don Sweeney opens up about Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo contract talks

It's been a quiet offseason for the Bruins, but the elephant in the room has been the contract situations of defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

Bruins president Cam Neely said earlier this month negotiations were "still status quo" with the two restricted free agents. It's been radio silence from both sides since then, but on Thursday general manager Don Sweeney provided another update on how things are coming along in a conversation with Michael Tolvo of BostonBruins.com.

“Not as fast as everybody would like,” Sweeney admitted. “But that’s just the nature of the business and every negotiation has its own timeline. We’ll find a finish line at some point and time, Brandon and Charlie will be a part of our organization for a long time. We think really highly of them as players on and off the ice, we just have to find a common ground and we’re working to get there.”

While it's unclear what kinds of deals McAvoy and Carlo will receive, Bruins fans can at least take solace in Sweeney's confidence in the duo donning the Black and Gold for years to come.

As for a move the B's have made this summer, they did manage to lock up one of their RFA's, Danton Heinen. Both Noel Acciari (Florida Panthers) and Marcus Johannson (Buffalo Sabres) left in free agency.

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Appreciating legendary hockey writer Russ Conway at his passing

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NBC Sports Illustration

Appreciating legendary hockey writer Russ Conway at his passing

The phrase “larger than life” is thrown around a lot these days.

Sometimes it’s warranted and sometimes it’s simply hyperbole thrown around when more accurate words might do just as well.

In the case of Lawrence Eagle-Tribune Bruins scribe Russ Conway, it was legit in every way possible. Conway passed away earlier this week at 70 years old after a number of health issues related to his heart over the last few years. While the health issues certainly had their impact, it didn’t stop Conway from continuing to live the bon vivant lifestyle he was known for while covering the Bruins and then enjoying semi-retirement after essentially leaving the Bruins beat following the 2004-05 lockout that wiped out an entire hockey season.

The nuts and bolts of Conway’s life were impressive simply on his accomplishments alone.

Conway was awarded the prestigious Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award in 1999 for journalists inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

In 2006, a year after his retirement from The Eagle-Tribune as sports editor after nearly 40 years with the paper, Conway was inducted into the New England Racing Hall of Fame after serving as a longtime promoter and racetrack owner dedicated to the sport.

In 1992, he was nominated as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in beat reporting for a number of stories that exposed corruption with then-PHWA Executive Director Alan Eagleson. Because of that, Conway had a close relationship with Bruins legend Bobby Orr and was among the most respected of hockey journalists by the players themselves.

His book, "Game Misconduct: Alan Eagleson and the Corruption of Hockey”, is still required reading for aspiring journalists looking to get into the hockey beat reporting game.

But Conway was so much more colorful than his greatest accomplishments. He was a man who lived life to its fullest and was a welcomed storyteller on so many hockey occasions, including one of his last times at TD Garden this past season when he showed up for Rick Middleton’s number retirement ceremony.

He could hang with even the heartiest of hockey players when it came to knocking back beers and storytelling, and that’s not easy to do.

In my role as PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) Chapter Chair in Boston, I had more than a few phone conversations with Conway over the years. Of course, there would be stories that went along with those conversations. I still remember a few months ago hearing about the time that Don Cherry had an issue with his neighbors in the suburbs of Boston when his dog Blue either bit a person or another dog in the neighborhood.

I can’t remember the exact details, but I do remember that it was Conway who acted as mediator between Grapes and the aggrieved neighbors, and showed his penchant for helping out the players and coaches he covered without compromising his journalistic integrity in any way.  It was a delicate line he managed to walk throughout a career that saw him break the biggest of stories in the world of hockey.

My first year covering the Bruins in 2003-04 was also Patrice Bergeron’s rookie season with the B’s (Russ was a massive fan of Bergeron the person and player, by the way), and it was also Conway’s last year covering the B’s on a regular basis. It was amazing to watch him take his customary position with one foot raised up on the dressing stalls while engaging in long, animated conversations with the players postgame and post-practice.

What were they talking about? How did Conway manage to capture the attention of these players when this young hockey writer was simply in awe of being let through the doors in the first place?

It felt like they were having this great conversation rather than the typical interview patter we see so many times in locker rooms everywhere.  

Certainly that feeling of surreal awe isn’t there for me like it once was after covering Boston pro sports for nearly 20 years, but I’m still in awe of the way Conway turned beat reporting into such a personal, joie de vivre-filled endeavor. What I realized watching him was that it’s always about the relationships that you build covering a team when it comes to the big stories, and being the right guy in the right place at the right time as Conway was while breaking the Eagleson stories.

Russ never felt like he was grinding it out on the beat.

It felt like he was the show, and everybody else was happy to be along for the story-filled ride. The ride is over now sadly, but Conway’s legacy is going to live on in my memory and so many of the hockey people that he touched over the last five decades covering the sport.

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