It remains to be seen where exactly Jack Studnicka fits into the Bruins’ lineup this summer.
In a perfect scenario, the Bruins likely wouldn’t even need to press the 21-year-old forward into service, with top-six fixtures like David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase pulling their weight as offensive spark plugs — with young NHLers in Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman serving as added insurance.
But given Pastrnak and Kase’s murky status after missing a majority of Boston’s Phase 3 workouts, don’t be surprised if Studnicka earns himself an extended look in exhibition and round-robin play once Boston makes the trek up to Toronto on Sunday.
Like most younger players on Boston’s roster, the extended break caused by COVID-19 hasn’t saddled Studnicka with much rust, with the B’s top prospect impressing on the ice at the club’s Brighton facility — especially when allowed to turn on the afterburners during odd-man rushes.
Still, while Studnicka's offensive skillset might feature a bit more panache than some of Boston's other forwards, he might be at his best operating down low. Even with his limited time up in the NHL ranks, Studnicka has developed a nose for the net — sacrificing a pair of teeth during preseason action after deflecting a shot off his face (and into the net) while entrenched near the opposing crease.
Even with a small sample size with Boston during the regular season, Studnicka's willingness to recover pucks down low and hover around Grade-A ice often allowed the Bruins to consistently generate quality looks when he was out on the ice — with Boston holding the edge in goals scored (2-0) and high-danger scoring chances (9-1) during Studnicka's 22:10 of 5v5 ice time.
The Bruins will need to take a longer look at Studnicka during actual game action before giving him a definitive shot once playoff hockey officially commences, a scenario that could be easily play out, especially if Pastrnak and especially Kase are either sidelined or slow out the gate.
"We're gonna have to see how he performs on the wall with D pinching down on him," Cassidy said of Studnicka. "Will he have the composure to to make a play when he has time or the strength to get it out when he doesn't, or tie it up? So I think those game situations will dictate that. ... But I like his compete. I like the fact that he's engaged in practice every day, looks like he's very fit. So that part of it, just the initial (impression), does not look out of place and actually looks pretty good in some of the drills. So that's the start, that's step one — is to show that you can belong, and then hopefully, excel against the guys that he's competing against. Time will tell with that in the next 10 days or so."
Still, based on the initial eye test, there's a lot to like about Studnicka's game — far beyond the expected hype that comes with the highlights of him carving up opposing OHL and AHL defenses out on open ice.
For Cassidy, what stands out about the Tecumseh, Ontario product is his already refined approach toward carrying out the smaller details of the game — a trait shared by another Bruins pivot with a slightly more extensive resume, to say the least.