Boston Bruins center Jack Studnicka made the trip to Toronto as the team entered the NHL bubble to prepare for the NHL's season restart.
There are several rookies who could make a meaningful impact when the league's qualifying round/round robin games commence, and Studnicka definitely has the potential to be one of them.
Studnicka is the Bruins' top prospect. He led the Providence Bruins with 23 goals and 26 assists for 49 points in 60 games during the AHL's regular season. He skated with the team during training camp and recently has filled the right wing spot on Boston's second line next to center David Krejci and left winger Jake DeBrusk. Ondrej Kase typically would be the first choice right wing on Krejci's line, but he missed most of Boston's practices during Phase 3 and is expected to join the team in Toronto at a late date.
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Studnicka is an offensively gifted player with an excellent shot and impressive speed. His natural position is center, but he should be able to contribute at right wing, particularly in a top-six role.
"I think he's a very good player, very talented," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron told reporters during a Zoom conference call Monday. "It's pretty amazing seeing him from training camp to now -- he's taken a huge step forward. He seems to just be getting better, got stronger also. His speed -- he seems to be getting faster, which is scary. Very good player, smart, seems to play the right way. ..."
Secondary scoring is a potential concern for the Bruins. They have the best top line in hockey with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak dominating at both ends of the ice on a nightly basis. Pastrnak led the way with 48 goals, which tied Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin for the league lead. The other three lines have not been anywhere near as consistent as the Bergeron line, and the Bruins will need multiple players outside of the team's top three scorers to step up during the playoffs if this team is going to return to the Stanley Cup Final.
Studnicka could give the B's a much-needed scoring boost, but he only has two games of NHL experience, including zero games of playoff action.
The Bruins should absolutely give Studnicka ice time during the round robin games, but they must field the best lineup possible because these matchups are very important. Despite winning the Presidents' Trophy with the league's best record during the regular season, the Bruins will fight for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs in a three-game round robin format against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and Capitals. If the B's finish as the fourth team in this group, they will be the No. 4 seed in the East playoffs and their path to the Cup Final could be far more challenging.
It remains to be seen where in the lineup Studnicka will play and how much ice time he'll receive. A lot of it will probably depend on health/injuries. It's definitely beneficial for the Bruins to at least have him in Toronto, though, because there's no question his speed, physical strength and offensive skill could prove quite useful to Boston during the playoffs.
Studnicka is one of the biggest reasons to be optimistic about the Bruins' future, but we shouldn't rule out him making a difference in the team's present situation, too.