TORONTO - While the eyes of all Bruins fans will be on the first-round playoff series between the B’s and the Toronto Maple Leafs, there will be something to keep an eye on happening with the Providence Bruins as well.
Top prospect Jack Studnicka officially had his junior hockey career come to an end on Tuesday night when the Niagara Ice Dogs fell to the Oshawa Generals in the OHL playoffs and now the young center will be reporting to Providence for some AHL work with the P-Bruins. Providence begins a playoff series against Charlotte this weekend and will provide an ideal development training ground for Studnicka to sharpen his pro game.
It won’t be the first pro experience for the Studnicka, 20, of course, as he posted five points (one goal, five points) in five games with the P-Bruins last spring when his junior season was over. Studnicka also got some good experience while over in China for Bruins training camp this past fall. Studnicka finished with 34 goals and 83 points in his final junior hockey season split between the Oshawa Generals and the Ice Dogs and had 11 points in 11 games in the junior hockey playoffs prior to his team’s elimination.
Now the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Studnicka will transform his offensive skills and two-way play at center toward the pro game, and he could quickly surpass both Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Trent Frederic as the next big-time center coming up through the B’s talent pipeline. The challenge for him will be to continue getting bigger and stronger as that was the No. 1 thing the B’s were looking at from him at development camp last summer.
“Time will tell. He’s strong, he’s physically strong. I haven’t seen all the [fitness testing] scores yet, but just in kind of watching quickly, he looks good. We’ll see. It will tell when we’re out there on the ice, he handled himself well in the American League [last spring],” said Bruins director of player development Jamie Langenbrunner at development camp that starred Studnicka last summer. “I’m sure he gets pushed [around] once in a while. But his attitude is to come right back at it, so he’s competitive. I think that makes up for some of the pure strength that he’ll continue to grow as he gets older.
“He’s not the most vocal guy in the world. His attitude and the way he plays, he’s a leading scorer, he’s a playmaker, but I saw him on two occasions [in junior hockey] go and get in a fight protecting a teammate. He has it in him. It’s just a natural thing for him. It’s the reason he was named a captain as a young 18-year-old in that league. He leads by example every day.”
There won’t be a rush for Studnicka to come to the NHL before he’s ready, however, after the Bruins traded for big-bodied center Charlie Coyle ahead of the trade deadline.
Instead, they’ll give Studnicka time to develop in the AHL and hope that he gives them a top-six center in training who could spell Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci or Coyle should injuries hit any of those three centers next season.
And if Studnicka instead takes the AHL by storm and forces his way into the NHL picture for Boston sooner than expected? Well, then all the better for a top prospect that seems as if he’s coming along at the right time with both Bergeron and Krejci well into their 30’s in an NHL that’s getting younger and faster.
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