Jakub Lauko ready to be 'humble & prepared' for Bruins training camp

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Jakub Lauko ready to be 'humble & prepared' for Bruins training camp

It wasn’t a slam dunk that 19-year-old Bruins prospect Jakub Lauko was going to play in the QMJHL this past season.

In fact, Lauko admitted he had a lot of reservations when it was first discussed that the best move for the Czech winger would be to come over for North American junior hockey where he could begin to adjust away from the European game.

Lauko wanted to go right to the AHL in Providence after scoring a couple of goals early in his first NHL training camp before suffering an injury in a collision during camp practice with Noel Acciari. Clearly it was the right move for the teenager to head instead to junior hockey for his development, though, and that’s the way things played out for him in a year where he got better as things went along.

It still was tough as Lauko adjusted to a different language and culture over the course of the hockey season, but the top B’s forward prospect had zero regrets when it was all over with this summer.

Lauko didn’t skate at all in Bruins development camp a few weeks ago because his junior season had just wrapped up after Rouyn-Noranda made it all the way to the Memorial Cup, but the Bruins prospect says that his experience in Quebec ended up making him a better player. It also showed him to be a big game player as he led the way with his eight points (two goals, six assists) in the five games it took Rouyn-Noranda to hoist the Memorial Cup.

“I hated it for the first month,” said Lauko, who was playing through a lower body injury toward the end of his team’s postseason run. “But at the end of the season, you just look up and see that you won two trophies. It was the right choice after that. I think I changed a lot as a player. I improved my English, and I think I’m a different player after this season, different person. I’m just happy I made the choice.”

“It was a really big experience for me, through the regular season, playoffs and to the Cup. It was hell of a ride for us and I really enjoyed it. Just happy to have two trophies over my head after.”

He was always pretty good to begin as evidenced by his standout performance at last summer’s development camp, and in last fall’s Bruins rookie training camp as well. The 6-foot-1, 172-pounder has speed, tenacity and goal-scoring ability as evidenced by his 21 goals and 41 points in 43 games for the Huskies during the regular season. Then he poured on six more goals and 13 points in 19 games during the Memorial Cup playoffs and showed off the skill that got him drafted.

Now Lauko heads into his second NHL training camp one year bigger, stronger and more mature in his hockey game. Will he finally get his wish to be in either Boston or Providence this fall where he’s already shown some of the hard-nosed and skilled traits he’ll need to eventually stick at the NHL level?

"I think he came in last year and had a good training camp, he did a real good job of coming over to North America and adjusting a little bit. It was a little bit of a challenge early on. Tough going into Northern Quebec learning English and French at the same time to a degree,” said Bruins Player Development Coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner. “It was tough living-wise for him early on, but his game continued to grow and he played his best hockey at the end of the year. That's what we were hoping for. We will see when September and October comes with him."

Certainly the Bruins could use another top-6 or top-9 winger after they never replaced the departing Marcus Johansson, but it has to be considered a longshot for Lauko with more finished prospect products like Anders Bjork, Peter Cehlarik and Zach Senyshyn in the running for any vacant forward spots.

Whether it’s next season or a couple of years down the road, however, it’s beginning to feel like Lauko is going to be in Boston sooner rather than later. And he will make an impact with his two-way game when he finally does arrive after the Bruins selected him in the third round (77thoverall) in last summer’s NHL Draft.

“It’s hard to say (where I will play this season),” said Lauko, who signed his entry-level deal with the Bruins at the tail end of training camp last fall. “I will go into the year and just try to find a spot in Boston. You never know what’s going to happen. I will just stay positive and whatever happens is going to happen.

"I will just arrive here humble and prepared. I will try to fight for a spot here. If it will not go well, just keep working and try to fight for a spot during the season and next seasons.”

Lauko certainly has the right attitude and he’s got the goods as far as his game goes on the ice. Everybody will just have to wait a few months to see if the 19-year-old has matured enough to the point where he could use those electric skills and tenacity to challenge for a B’s roster spot at a precocious young age.

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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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Danton Heinen "wanted to be an offensive guy," now Bruins need him to be more of that guy

Danton Heinen "wanted to be an offensive guy," now Bruins need him to be more of that guy

Danton Heinen knows that his numbers dipped from his rookie season to this past year’s sophomore campaign where he posted 11 goals and 34 points in 77 games. Still, the 24-year-old earned a big pay raise with his two-year, $5.6 million contract signed earlier in the week to avoid salary arbitration, so he knows he’ll be sticking around in Boston for the next couple of season.

Heinen will also be looking to regain some of the offensive mojo that he lost from the first half of his first NHL season when he scored 11 goals and 33 points in his first 43 games. Since then Heinen has just 16 goals and 48 points in his last 111 games, and he finished with a very quiet two goals in 24 games during Boston’s Stanley Cup playoff run.

So the young winger knows he’s going to need to start gaining a little ground back offensively headed into his third NHL campaign and regain some of that hungry swagger that he seemed to have coming right out of the game in his rookie campaign. The Bruins will need it after watching Marcus Johansson leave in unrestricted free agency with some pretty big job openings on the right wing side on two of Boston’s top three lines.

Certainly, there are young players that will get cracks at top-6 winger positions headed into next season, but Heinen is a guy that has the potential to clinch one of those gigs if he can find his offensive confidence. The responsible two-way play is definitely there and he’ll play no lower than third line wing on next season’s Bruins team, but the feeling is that there is certainly a higher ceiling for a player that left college hockey after two dominant seasons at the University of Denver.

“I’m going to continue to work on [the little details] because I think if you’re good at the little details good things happen, and you’re put in better spots on the ice. I’m going to continue to work on those details and then when you get chances, grade-A looks or [chances to] be an offensive guy that’s kind of… do your follow up there. That’s the kind of player I see myself being,” said the 6-foot-1, 188-pound Heinen. “Coming into the league, I wanted to be an offensive guy. I wanted to, you know, create more, and I’m going to keep on working at doing that, trying to produce more for the team.

“I think I also need to, you know, kind of get in a mindset where I’m shooting more and am more confident in my shot because, you know, different opportunities I might pass up or whatever. I believe in my shot, and I believe I can score. I think it’s just continuing believing in that and working on it.”

To Heinen’s point, his shots on goal dropped from 135 in his rookie season to 114 shots in the very same 77 games played last season. Some of it is about firing more pucks on the net and seizing the good scoring chances when the puck is on his stick. Some of it is about getting stronger in the battles areas of the ice and simply going there more often than he does right now.

The Bruins have certainly placed the investment in Heinen that they believe he’s going to take the next step offensively after carving out a nice, little third line winger niche for himself over the last couple of seasons. Now it’s up to the 24-year-old nice kid from British Columbia to seize the opportunity he’s been given and unlock some of the hidden parts of his two-way game that never fully emerged in a sophomore season where he was invisible on the ice a little too often.

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