PROVIDENCE — Jack Studnicka said he felt “more excitement than nerves” at the start of his first game as a pro.
The 19-year-old turned in a solid all-around performance, earning a pair of assists in Friday night’s 6-3 win by the Providence Bruins over the Hartford Wolf Pack.
“The boys made me feel real comfortable. Obviously they were on their game tonight so I just tried to jump on board. The older guys led the way. It’s a fast pace so it took a little adjustment. I think I adjusted to the best of my ability,” he said.
Providence coach Jay Leach was pleased with Studnicka’s work. “I liked his first shift. He just got in there and went to work. Had some polish with the puck. Clearly can make some plays,” Leach said.
Boston drafted Studnicka in the second round, 53rd overall, last June. Building on a strong rookie camp and training camp with Boston in September, the righty centerman scored 22 goals and 72 points in 66 games as captain of the Oshawa Generals this season.
Playing between Anton Blidh and Cam Hughes, Studnicka registered his first point as a pro 7:59 into the game with a secondary assist on Blidh’s goal.
“He really got up the ice well to create the two on one on Blidh’s goal. Really kept the defender off of Blidh. If he doesn’t slash up the middle, it doesn’t create the play,” said John Ferguson Jr., Boston’s executive director of player personnel.
His second helper came in the third period, when he got the puck up the ice to Austin Czarnik, who scored his 22nd goal of the season.
“He’s trying to make plays. He’s going to learn, just like anyone else, where not to try certain things. That’s part of the reason why he’s here. He’s a good young prospect for us in the middle, just getting started,” said Ferguson.
“He made good strides this year. He’s learning both ends of the ice. That’s never been an issue for him. Skates very well. Gets his head up. Makes plays. Has got some finish. Has some flair. Has some real nice attributes.”
Boston coach Bruce Cassidy liked what he saw of Studnicka in camp.
“I thought Jack had a lot of composure, yet attacked every night he played. He wasn’t bothered by, as a young guy, looking around,” Cassidy said on Thursday in Florida.
“He just played and I thought he made some really good plays. I liked his game, especially his offensive things around the top of the circles—he could dish, he could get to the net. It looked like he had something offensively. Big enough guy, played tall, straight up. I thought in the middle of the ice he was a good player and would be a good prospect going forward.”
Studnicka isn’t eligible to move up to Providence full time next season. Unless he makes the NHL club out of training camp in the fall, he’ll be headed back to Oshawa, where he’d be one of the top players in the OHL, as well as a candidate to play for Canada in the World Junior Championship.
Looking down the road, what kind of a player could Studnicka develop into?
“I don’t know if it’s comparable, but there are players that have come through the O that have had similar characteristics, some similar attributes — a two-way game with some offense,”’ said Ferguson.
“Is it a Vince Trocheck (of Florida), who is a really, really good NHL player right now and came through the OHL and got better as a pro?”
We’ll see how it plays out. Boston’s done a great job finding good young players over the last few years and Studnicka looks to be another one.
(Stick tap to Kevin Paul Dupont for the Cassidy quote from Florida.)