The phrase “he came out of nowhere” is overused in sports. In the case of Jack Studnicka, however, it’s about the only phrased that can be used to describe his climb up the prospects chart.
His scoring prowess, brief-but-impressive AHL stint and serious flirtation with an NHL roster spot this month combine to put the 19-year-old forward at the top of our 2018 Bruins Prospect Rankings.
When he was drafted 53rd overall in 2017, the Bruins probably didn’t have immediate plans for Studnicka: go back to Oshawa, keep working on your game, and we’ll see you in a couple years.
Studnicka DID go back to Oshawa, where he did far more than work on his game: he lit it up for the Generals, recording 72 points in 66 regular season games.
Yes, the Canadian junior leagues are high-scoring leagues, where eye-popping point totals aren’t super uncommon. But Studnicka’s season was impressive because it represented a pretty significant leap over his previous season, when he recorded 52 points in 64 regular season games.
Studnicka also served as Oshawa’s captain last season, taking a leadership role a few months before his 19th birthday.
He impressed in his first camp with the Bruins back in 2017, so much so that they got him into the fold with an ELC right around this time a year ago.
The most important part of Studnicka’s development probably came after his juniors season ended, when the teenager skated in 5 games with the Providence Bruins.
The P-Bruins did him a favor with some PP work and favorable ice time, but the kid more than held his own, scoring once and recording four assists.
He came into camp this summer with his eyes on the NHL roster, and he came pretty close to pulling it off.
Studnicka was among the last real cuts of camp on Wednesday, sticking around long enough for fans and media types alike to wonder aloud if the teenager was really going to crack the roster.
Instead, it’s back to the OHL, where the Bruins undoubtedly hope Studnicka will continue the trend of improving year-over-year.
Admittedly, there’s a bit of “shiny new toy” syndrome with Studnicka among our group here. After all, the kid put up attention-grabbing numbers in juniors, was a PPG guy in Providence and nearly made the NHL roster.
It’s hard not to look at all that and crown him the Next Big Thing.
There are cautions to be considered when looking at his rapid rise. After all, OHL points don’t necessarily translate to NHL success.
However, there are enough positives to outweigh the skepticism. Studnicka’s strengths (skating, craftiness with the puck, offensive instincts) will serve him well in the NHL. Size and physical strength will come with time.
Studnicka will likely end this hockey calendar year back with Providence, depending on how things go with Oshawa. Another strong showing there will do little to slow down the hype train.
But at this point, hype it up. The kid is impressive, and will hopefully continue to be improved.
And next October, don’t be surprised if his name is above a locker stall at the Garden instead of on a press release about training camp cuts.
Editor’s note: Where’s Ryan Donato? You’re probably asking yourself that question if you’ve followed this series. Before we started, I decided that instead of doing the best guys under a certain age, we’d focus on the prospects who weren’t quite “established” yet.
This didn’t mean they never reached the NHL; rather that they weren’t surefire NHLers. We operated under the assumption that Ryan Donato had an NHL spot locked up, mainly due to Donatomania last spring. Plus, everyone was going to pick Donato for #1, which would have made things less interesting.
The problem, of course, is that Anders Bjork has actually played more NHL games than Donato, and I’m considering one a prospect and one a regular. I made the decision to put him back in the pool because his injury and missed time had kind of put him back out on the fringe. During his injury, a number of guys had jumped in, with Donato being one of them.
Given Donato’s camp thus far, it may have been a good idea to include him in the mix, as his spot isn’t looking super secure right now. I probably should have taken both Bjork and Donato out, or included both; that was my mistake.
For the sake of argument, you can consider Studnicka, Donato and Bjork 1A, 1B and 1C.
Hey, live and learn.
The final rankings
10. Jeremy Swayman
9. Ryan Fitzgerald
8. Trent Frederic
7. Peter Cehlarik
6. Jeremy Lauzon
5. Jakub Zboril
4. Urho Vaakanainen
3. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson
2. Anders Bjork
1. Jack Studnicka