Charlie Coyle may still be the favorite to replace longtime Boston Bruins center David Krejci on the team’s second line this season but don’t sleep on Jack Studnicka. The 22-year-old center – who with just 22 NHL games under his belt, is still a rookie – has gotten rave reviews for arriving back in Boston as a much more polished and physical specimen.
After struggling with the physical rigors of the NHL last season, Studnicka put on 15 pounds this past offseason and appears ready to tackle the grind of an 82-game NHL season. He’s been turning heads in captain’s practices so far and on Wednesday, Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was the latest to notice the bulked-up Studnicka. In fact, Cassidy indicated that Studnicka will get a legit shot at the 2C slot while Coyle is limited to begin camp after offseason knee surgeries.
“We’re going to try different players in that [second-line center] spot, Jack Studnicka being one,” the Boston Bruins bench boss told the media via Zoom Wednesday following team physicals. “We’ve got to find out where he’s at. We do have [Erik] Haula that we’re trying to find some wingers for him. He was drafted as a centerman, last year was tough on a lot of young guys with the limited schedule — he had a great first year in Providence, played some big games for us — so we’ve got to find out where he’s at. We’ll see where does Jack best fits in, who best plays with Haula. So, that’ll be the plan for the first week to 10 days or so, see where Coyle is at going forward and make any adjustments.”
Since the Boston Bruins drafted Studnicka in the second round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, size has been an issue. While Cassidy has always loved Studnicka’s willingness to pay the price to create scoring chances for himself and his teammates since his first NHL game for the Boston Bruins two seasons ago, he urged him to bulk up if he was going to play that style. Cassidy is happy that the youngster knew what he had to do in order to be successful doing so.
(We wanted him) just being a little stronger on his feet with balance, so core work, to be able to absorb some of the contact, the sort of chip hits where he’s going through traffic and a guy gets a piece of him, but he can keep his balance and keep going and keep puck possession,” Cassidy said. “Jack has a willingness to go into traffic, he likes to play in there, he likes to have the puck around the net, those dirty areas. So, you have to be strong on it if you’re going to be at your best. So that was part of the reason for the conversation. I think he recognized it as well.”
Studnicka told the media earlier this week that he already has noticed a difference in his ability to separate from scrums and opposing players so far at Boston Bruins captain’s practices.
“I feel more explosive,” said Studnicka after 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 begin their on-ice sessions of training camp Thursday.