BRIGHTON, Mass – There has already been plenty of discussion about the very real youth movement with the Boston Bruins in this training camp.
Youngsters Jeremy Lauzon, Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka all changed to different uniform numbers ahead of training camp in a clear indication they had a chance to really contribute at the NHL level this season. And all three youngsters are getting prominent looks in an extremely abbreviated training camp that will lead to actual NHL games next week.
The rugged, physical Lauzon has been skating in a pairing with Charlie McAvoy that might just be what we see to start the regular season, and both Studnicka and Frederic are trending toward being in the lineup opening night for the B’s as well. Interestingly, both Studnicka and Frederic are playing away from their natural center positions, however, and might just start off playing the wing for the Black and Gold next week.
The 21-year-old Studnicka has been playing on the right side alongside Patrice Bergeron on the Perfection Line, and could be a stopgap replacement for the rehabbing David Pastrnak until he’s expected to be ready in the first week of February. The skating stride, the puck possession and the young energy have all been noticeable in the first few days of camp and give Studnicka a chance to build on his promising play during five playoff games in the Toronto bubble last summer.
“[Studnicka] is a guy that we feel is close but hasn’t been here full time or penciled into a permanent spot,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’ll be competing for a place in the lineup right now. Pastrnak will not be ready to start the season, so we’ll look at different people there. Middle of the ice is more of a natural center, but we’re pretty healthy and strong down the middle. So, he may start his [NHL] career on the wing, which he did at times for us last year too.”
Frederic was plugged into the left wing on the fourth line with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner on the second day of training camp, and that could be a prime spot for the former first round pick this season.
Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy explained talked about the competition being a little more open at the wings when asked about Studnicka and Frederic after Tuesday’s training camp session.
“It’s tough for these guys coming in to crack our lineup in the middle of the ice. If you go through Bergeron, Krejci, Coyle and Kuraly, we feel great about our center iceman. Now could Kuraly bump over and play the wing if we wanted to make room for Frederic on the fourth line as a center? Absolutely. We have moved Coyle over to the wing out of necessity at times, but we like him exactly where he is anchoring the third line, especially with the addition of Craig Smith.
“We’ve got [Ondrej] Kase and then when Pastrnak is healthy you don’t need that [extra] right winger. But with Pasta out it’s always in the cards that [Coyle] could slide over and that opens up a spot for a center. But we like [Coyle] in the middle. So, it looks like those two young guys are going to have to earn their spots on the wing competing with wingers to get into the lineup. That’s why we’ve put them on the wing to start training camp. [Frederic] will see some time in the middle eventually…he’s a good face-off guy. Even as a winger if he played with Kuraly, he could take some draws on the fourth line if Sean is having an off night. If [Frederic] can get to the net, get to the inside and get his opportunities, give us some physical hockey when it’s there and be hard to play against, then he can help our team.”
It remains to be seen what will actually happen when Pastrnak does come back into the lineup. If Studnicka doesn’t get off to a fast start, it could mean either the Boston Bruins taxi squad or playing time in Providence until he’s needed given that Pastrnak, Kase and Smith seem pretty solid on the right side.
But youngsters like Studnicka, Frederic and Lauzon are getting prominent looks and Black and Golden chances in training camp to lock up NHL spots for opening night, and that’s all they could ask for at this point.