As the Boston Bruins have moved their way through training camp for the 2022-23 season, there have been some battles to keep an eye on ahead of the season opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 12. The biggest and most broken down battle has come in the battle for the three spots on the fourth line for first-year coach Jim Montgomery.
In the first four preseason games, some players have made it difficult on the coaching staff as they plan to put together the final roster. A.J. Greer and Marc McLaughlin are young players that have been impressive, while veterans Tomas Nosek and Nick Foligno are fighting for their spot on the roster for the second season in a row. One player, however, who is going to make the decision for Montgomery and his staff very difficult is center, Jack Studnicka.
Studnicka Seen as Future Center
Ever since he was drafted 53rd overall in the second round of the 2017 Entry Draft, the microscope has been on Studnicka. He has been labeled as the center in waiting for when it becomes reality for the Bruins that longtime centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are no longer in the Black and Gold’s top-six.
Studnicka does have 37 NHL games under his belt mainly over the last two seasons. In the 56-game shortened 2020-21 season, he played in a career-high 20 games with a goal and three points, but he was put at a disadvantage. Former coach Bruce Cassidy used him as a right wing at the beginning of the season, but as he did that year and every other time he has been placed on the wing in the NHL, the 23-year-old struggled, which ended up leading to his demotion to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL). He did return later in the season at the center when injuries piled up and looked like a different player up the middle in his natural position.
In the 60-game shortened 2019-20 season that was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, Studnicka enjoyed his best season in the AHL. In fact, you could say he had the breakout season that the Bruins organization had been waiting for. He had 23 goals and 26 assists while taking his game to the next level that everyone was hoping he would do. Now the Bruins are waiting for him to make the transition full-time to the NHL. If Monday night is any indication, he might very well be ready. In the Bruins 1-0 preseason loss to the New Jersey Devils, Studnicka went 11-for-14 on faceoffs.
Studnicka Needs to Clear Waivers If Sent to Providence
Out of the last three training camps that the former Oshawa Generals forward has been a part of in Boston, this is the Windsor, Ontario native’s best opportunity to make the roster on opening night at center. Studnicka does, however, have the battle to earn that spot over some veterans and younger players.
Last season, Tomas Nosek spent the majority of the season centering the fourth line, but it was a dismal season for the former Vegas Golden Knight who went the final 57 games of the season without a goal. He finished with three goals and 17 points in 75 games. With Bergeron, Krejci, and Charlie Coyle the expected top-nine center depth entering the season, Studnicka’s biggest obstacle in earning a roster spot would be Nosek.
Prospect Johnny Beecher is another center making the case for a spot, but in the big picture, Studnicka would have the upper hand over the former University of Michigan standout. When push comes to shove, the Bruins’ hands are tied with the options they have for Studnicka. If he is sent down to Providence to begin the season, he would be exposed on waivers for any team to claim and Boston will risk losing him for nothing. That’s not something general manager (GM) Don Sweeney or Montgomery wants to happen at this point in Studnicka’s career.
The fourth line center spot will most likely come down to Nosek and Studnicka and who should get it? Nosek is a reliable penalty killer and he is a left-shot center that can work in his favor in late-game situations when the Bruins need a left-shot center for a face-off in certain situations. He is been pretty invisible in the preseason games he has played in and has not registered a shot on the net in over 30 minutes of game action. Studnicka has had his moments in the preseason, but when he’s playing well, he is more productive with any offensive production than Nosek. Studnicka has been involved in the offense a little more, he’s been given a chance in all situations and he has become a good penalty killer as his professional time has gone along.
The Bruins brought Studnicka back in the offseason on a two-year contract, but due to his playing time in the NHL, he will require waivers to get his way to Providence and that means any of the other clubs in the league can claim him. Despite his NHL game not being what the Bruins had hoped it would be to this point, there is no doubt that one of the other NHL teams would grab him for a fresh start. With that said, the Black and Gold face a big decision on what to do with him, especially if they see him as part of their future plans when their veterans have retired.
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Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.