One of the main storylines headed into this week’s Boston Bruins training camp is the No. 2 center spot with David Krejci off in the Czech Republic tearing it up for his new team. It’s expected that Charlie Coyle has the inside spot on the top-6 center spot to start the season, but he’s going to be limited to start training camp due to his summer knee surgeries.
So that means things are wide open for 22-year-old rookie Jack Studnicka to start training camp if he can show that he’s finally ready for heavy duty NHL work this season. In a perfect world it would be the youngster winning the No. 2 center gig because of his offensive upside, but it remains to be seen if Studnicka handle an important gig for a playoff team like the B’s.
Studnicka has certainly done his part sticking around Boston all summer while working out in both Foxboro and Warrior Ice Arena while packing on 15 pounds of muscle and NHL strength.
The work has certainly paid off as Studnicka looks bigger, faster and stronger during captain’s practices this summer and looks ready for the opportunity opening up in Krejci’s absence.
Jack Studnicka just pulled out a toe drag moving driving the net and fed a perfect backhanded pass to the slot for a goal. He looks bigger, stronger, faster and more like he’s ready to compete for an NHL job in camp
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) September 13, 2021
“Just staying in town and making that commitment to getting bigger and getting stronger, for him it’s visible. I was shocked,” said Providence Bruins coach Ryan Mougenel of Studnicka. “I hadn’t seen him in a couple weeks. He’s definitely put the work in of taking the message of getting bigger and stronger.
“Will it translate to his game? I’m sure it will. Jack is one of those players that’s knocking on the door. We forget how young — he’s still on his entry-level deal. He’s a special player. I think the one thing that comes out of it is that he did what [the Bruins] wanted him to do, which is get bigger and stronger. Now it’s up to Jack. He’s gonna get some opportunity here.”
It had to be discouraging to a top-6 center prospect in the Bruins organization to see Krejci and Patrice Bergeron always blocking their way, but that’s not the case anymore with Krejci gone and Bergeron 36 years old.
“I feel more explosive,” said Studnicka this week of a summer spent working out with strength and conditioning coach Brian McDonough from Edge Performance Systems. “I wasn’t trying to put on all this bad weight, just trying to get faster, more explosive. I think it was just my body’s time, just catching up. Fortunately, I weigh a bit more and hopefully I’ll be able to push off guys and hold onto the puck longer and gain more explosiveness.
“I just want to put my best foot forward, show that I had a good offseason, come in and work as hard as I can, play my game and hopefully everything works out well and I get a good opportunity here.”
The Boston Bruins absolutely hope that Studnicka earns himself a good opportunity, as well, at a time in his career where top prospects turn into legit NHL players.
Studnicka has always had excellent speed and the kind of hands that will translate into offense at the NHL level, but it was noticeably difficult for the 6-foot-1 center to win board battles and hang onto the puck in the traffic areas. He’s hoping that’s going to change after bouncing between the NHL, the AHL and the taxi squad last season while posting a goal and three points in 20 games with the Bruins mostly on the wing.
“It’s a man’s league, so the focus was getting stronger, obviously. In past levels, in the American League, you could hold on to the puck easier regardless of your stature. Here, there’s big strong defensemen always in your face,” said Studnicka. “I knew I had to get stronger, so I believe I achieved that. Hopefully it translates. The numbers weren’t really there offensively for me, and I kind of pride myself on being an offensive guy. When I look back on it, there were opportunities and hopefully I can just build on that this year.”
Clearly, it’s going to be a wide open competition to start the season with new guys Tomas Nosek, Erik Haula and Nick Foligno all expected to get looks at center, and second-year forward Trent Frederic a natural center as well. But the Boston Bruins have traditionally had their entire roster built around the backbone of two frontline top-6 centers with Krejci and Bergeron, and Studnicka’s development would go a long way toward keeping that traditional roster framework going.
It’s clear that Studnicka has put the requisite hard work in and that’s a very good sign for the Boston Bruins headed into training camp.