A quarter of the way into his first full season as a pro, Jack Studnicka is in a good place.
The 20-year-old center is playing big minutes for the Providence Bruins and his game is trending upward.
With goals in four of the last five games, Studnicka is tied with Paul Carey and Alex Petrovic for the team scoring lead with 13 points (6 goals and 7 assists) in 18 games.
“He’s been good,’’ said coach Jay Leach. “The workload we’re giving him, for a 20-year-old kid, it’s impressive that he’s been able to handle all that. He plays in every situation. Obviously, he’s getting a tough matchup most nights.’’
Making the jump from the Ontario Hockey League requires some adjustment, but Studnicka is feeling more comfortable every day.
“It took a couple of games to get used to the schedule, the speed, the maintenance. I feel like I’m in full swing now and playing to my ability,’’ Studnicka said after practice on Thursday.
“I’ve been trying to come to the rink every game and work as hard as I can and do the details and kind of let the offense take care of itself. It’s nice to see that paying off and hopefully I can continue that going forward.
“I’m really trying to protect the puck down low, create some offensive zone time with the puck on my stick, kind of trying to feel out how teams in this league play in their D zone. Spin off guys, create space and look for an open play, be a playmaker and shoot when I can,’’ he said.
Studnicka is among the team leaders in ice time for forwards, averaging from 18 to 21 minutes per game, according to Leach.
“The No. 1 thing for him is he competes. Loves playing the game. He’s a really smart player. He’s shown that ability to find guys – I don’t know if I want to call it a next-level play — but he does have that ability to really see the ice well and make a play that I can’t say I’ve seen from everyone. That does set him apart,’’ said Leach.
“You can clearly tell he’s 20 years old and just growing into his body. We have to be careful with our expectations with someone like that.’’
Studnicka’s dad, who played for Maine in the 1980s, has visited twice. His mom is scheduled for a visit next month.
“This is kind of my first year living on my own. Me and Cooper Zech are living together, trying to cook, put some recipes together. We’re both in the same boat, trying to put some weight on, some good weight. We’re learning how to cook and, in our down time, watching hockey, watching movies, what any normal kid does,’’ he said.
As he works on his own game in the AHL, Studnicka naturally is paying attention to what’s going on with the parent club.
“I like to watch their games, but it’s tough when we’re playing and they’re playing (at the same time). I don’t go and rewatch or anything like that, but if they are on, I’m watching the game, for sure,’’ he said.
The goal, of course, is to be playing in, not watching, those NHL games, whether it’s later this season or next.
“No rush, in my mind. When called upon, I think I’m going to be ready, mentally and physically,’’ he said.