Jack Studnicka

Bruins expected to get AHL reinforcements should NHL season resume

Bruins expected to get AHL reinforcements should NHL season resume

Things will be different for the NHL when the league does resume the 2019-20 season, and that extends to teams' rosters as well.

There will be no continuation of the AHL season if the NHL players get going again over the next couple of months, but there is expected to be an expanded NHL roster that would include extra players from the American League.

They will essentially serve as the “Black Aces” like during the NHL postseason while practicing with the team and potentially getting inserted into the lineup if/when injuries do strike.

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Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach pointed toward young forwards like Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic as players who would be in the mix for an expanded roster role in Boston, and it’s just as likely that guys like Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen would be included in that NHL-ready group as well.

For his part, the 21-year-old Studnicka has been working out and roller-blading in Michigan over the last couple of months and stands ready to contribute if his number is called.

Certainly, Studnicka could be a big factor as his 23 goals and 49 points in 60 games for the P-Bruins would attest in his first pro season. He’s got the skill to play center or wing if needed and he’s still building strength into his 6-foot frame.

“I’m going to be ready. I feel ready,” said Studnicka, who got his feet wet with two NHL games this season including an NHL debut in the Bell Centre against the Canadiens. “I haven’t heard much on the topic. You see the rumors about what the plan is and I would love for a scenario like that to play out. Hopefully the NHL comes back and I’m able to be a part of it. That’s something I’d definitely be looking forward to.

“Last year I went through the experience of [being a Black Ace] to see the competition live and it was unbelievable. This time around hopefully we come out on the other side. I feel like I’ve had a good season down in Providence and proved that I could help the organization win. Whether they decide if it’s as a Black Ace or playing [games], that’s for them to decide. I’m willing to do whatever they ask when the time comes.”

Clearly the 22-year-old Frederic could help as well with a sturdy 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame to go along with eight goals and 32 points in 59 games and a whopping 148 penalty minutes. Frederic didn’t hesitate to drop the gloves this season while leading the AHL in fighting majors, but it was toughness and physicality up front that would be of big-time use to the Black and Gold.

“I don’t think anybody has a clue because from what I understand, we won’t know the size of the group,” said Leach during a Monday Zoom conference call with reporters, when asked if he could identify which P-Bruins skaters would be with the Boston team if and when NHL play resumes. “This is just my best guess, but I think it’s the guys that we talk about.

“It’s [Jack] Studnicka, it’s [Trent] Frederic. If we’re talking five guys it would be Studnicka, Frederic, Zboril, Vaakanainen and [Steve] Kampfer. I think [Karson] Kuhlman would be in that mix too since he’d been in Boston before. It’s tough to nail down, but that’s who I’d be going with to start. Where does it end? It depends on what the limit is and what they’re going to need. I don’t think anybody can forecast that right now. I can tell you there are plenty of candidates.”

Clearly there will need to be a healthy number of substitute players as nobody knows for sure how many players could end up getting sidelined if a player were to test positive for COVID-19 once play resumes.

And some of Boston’s best and brightest prospects would be a good place to start when fortifying a Bruins roster for what’s expected to be a slew of unknowns over the next few months.

Top Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka draws positive review from Bruce Cassidy

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USA TODAY Sports

Top Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka draws positive review from Bruce Cassidy

The Boston Bruins don't have a robust prospect pool filled with elite talent. This is not unusual for a franchise that's been a perennial playoff contender, and one that often looks to move draft picks and/or prospects to make roster upgrades at the NHL trade deadline.

This also doesn't mean the Bruins lack exciting talent throughout the organization, though. For example, Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman, who Boston selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, was recently named as a finalist for the Hobey Baker Trophy.

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The top prospect in Boston's system is center Jack Studnicka -- a second-round pick by the Bruins in 2017. Studnicka had played the entire 2019-20 campaign with the AHL's Providence Bruins before the outbreak of the coronavirus halted the season. He's tallied 49 points (23 goals, 26 assists) in 60 games for Providence.

Studnicka's performance has drawn positive reviews from Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.

“How he scores goals is interesting,” Cassidy told Joe McDonald of The Athletic. “He gets inside and works to the good ice a lot, which is important in the NHL. It’s hard to be a perimeter player and have success. That was one thing I noticed about him. … He’s a very aggressive guy on the puck, and for a centerman that’s unique because usually you want your wingers in there on puck pursuit more than a centerman because he has a long way to go (to get back into the defensive zone).”

Studnicka's chance to make a real impact in the NHL could come as early as next season. He'd be an excellent addition to the bottom-six, a group that could use more speed and offensive skill.

The goal for Studnicka is becoming a top-six center, and his play in Providence this season should give Bruins fans plenty of optimism that he'll eventually reach that level.

 

Bruins winning games despite 'some passengers', truly sluggish starts

Bruins winning games despite 'some passengers', truly sluggish starts

BOSTON – The Bruins are drifting into a dangerous pattern over the last few weeks.

It’s now two straight games where the Bruins have sleepwalked through the first 30-40 minutes of the game before eventually finding their game in the third period on the way to a victory over a beatable opponent. On Wednesday night, it was the lowly Ottawa Senators. And on Friday afternoon, it was a 3-2 overtime victory against an improving but still not totally ready for prime time New York Rangers squad at TD Garden.

Some of it is normal fatigue during the regular season as the Bruins were playing their third game in four days with a Friday matinee making for quick turnaround time, and some of it might be the Bruins missing their best two-way forward in Patrice Bergeron out with a lower-body injury.

But some of it was simply about the presence of “passengers” in the Bruins attack, which is something that head coach Bruce Cassidy acted on during the comeback win on Black Friday against the Blueshirts. It was something Cassidy alluded to before the game even started when he pointed toward younger players like Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka and others that could provide the Bruins with some much-needed energy.

“I know our team is always going to eventually find their game. I want them to find it sooner, and eventually we did get to our game and play our type of game. I think lately, we’ve found ways to win because we’ve got good players; we’re a good team, but we’re not playing our…we’re trying to get to that 60-minute game like everyone else in the National Hockey League. As a coach, that’s what you’re always looking at a little bit, the result but also the process for us,” said Cassidy. “You always want to win, but I think for us, we’re trying to build that process to get where we want to go, and that’s equally important.

"[It’s] great to get the two points. I thought we certainly pushed in the third and overtime to do that. I’d just like to see it happen a little sooner.”

As Cassidy alluded, the B's elite goaltending and the epic offensive tear that David Pastrnak is on will erase a lot of blemishes, and they helped do that again on Friday against the Blueshirts. 

The lineup juggling actually led to the B’s first goal in the second period as Jake DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly and 20-year-old Jack Studnicka were lumped together on a line with the usual center Studnicka playing the wing for the Black and Gold.

It was a time in the game where Danton Heinen was on the bench after a lazy second period turnover off the side boards that led to New York’s second goal, and was an easily diagnosable part of the “passenger” problem.

“I just didn’t think we had it as a group. There were some guys…we had some passengers, not a trait of our team, but [on Friday afternoon] we did. So, we mixed it [up]. I thought Jack [Studnicka] could give us some energy. He wants to prove he can play at this level, so you’re going to get the effort no matter what; we’ll fix the mistakes along the way. The effort was there on that goal,” said Cassidy. “So he ended up on the wing. I know he’s played there a little bit. It’s not what we want to do going into it. We will do it if we have to.

“Don’t expect him to start on the wing his next game. We want him to work the middle of the ice, but we’ll always have a conversation what’s best for the group. We want him to be a center and learn to play center first.”

The Cassidy mixing and matching led to Studnicka beating a delayed icing call to keep a play alive toward the end of the second period, and Sean Kuraly eventually redirecting a long Jake DeBrusk wrist shot past Henrik Lundqvist for signs of offensive life from the Bruins.

It was that goal that gave the Bruins momentum headed into the second intermission and led to a much better third period and explosive overtime for the two points.

It all started, however, with Cassidy diagnosing a problem that’s been present for the Bruins for the last few games, and may continue to require adjustments on the fly from the head coach before the team rights its game completely.

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