By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins prospect Jack Studnicka's golden opportunity in this NHL summer restart will move from the practice rink to game action.
With the Bruins down Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, and with David Pastrnak absent for almost all of Phase 3's training camp at Warrior Ice Arena, Studnicka has spent the majority of his practices as the team's second-line right wing. And even with Pastrnak expected back in action, Studnicka will remain in that top-six role for Thursday's exhibition with the Blue Jackets.
And you can bet that this is more than a sample for 2020-21.
The Bruins legitimately want to see if Studnicka, who was the P-Bruins' top scorer and one of the top rookies in the American Hockey League in 2019-20, can be part of this postseason roster. And to be honest, you could see this hype-train coming from a mile away given the way the organization raved about Studnicka during the pandemic pause, and with Studnicka himself saying all the right things with the hopes of being brought back to Boston for Phase 3.
That not only happened -- and with Studnicka given the depth chart nod above more experienced young guns like Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman in the process -- but it's becoming a focus for the Bruins in their only game before these games count.
"I think Jack has a little bit more upside offensively right now," B's coach Bruce Cassidy said of rolling Studnicka with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. "That's the reasoning for giving him an opportunity. We've never seen it. Good chance for a test run with that line."
Cassidy also knows some of the challenges that Studnicka will face upon this jump from the AHL to the NHL; Studnicka will have to make decisions quicker. With that decision-making in mind, he'll need to be more of a shooting threat, and understand that a shot is often better than a pass in the postseason. While considered more of a natural passer, Studnicka did show some scoring prowess in the A in 2019-20, with 23 goals on 154 shots (14.9 shooting percentage, 2.6 shots per game). He also fired three shots on goal in over 22 minutes of five-on-five play during his two-game run with the Big B's.
Talking with reporters earlier this week, Studnicka praised Krejci as a center that makes high-end plays, and noted the speed factor that DeBrusk brings and forces you to match when on his game.
"I'm just trying to bring work ethic to that line," Studnicka said of his chance riding opposite DeBrusk. "Jake, on the [left] side, has high-end speed. I'm just trying to keep up with him and show that I can play at a pace that he plays at and when the ability to make a play arises, try to contribute making plays with two good players."
The Bruins and Jackets drop the puck at 7 p.m. and the game can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub.