Jack Studnicka has new teeth, but could lose them in an old-school run at a roster spot.
The Vancouver Canucks winger had two missing upper and four wobbly lower teeth replaced with crowns in the off-season. However, his vow to bring improved fitness and ferocity to training camp next week in Victoria could eventually require another visit to the dentist because he doesn’t wear a mouth guard.
“There’s a chance,” Studnicka admitted Wednesday following a team pre-camp skate at the University of B.C. “It will be a tough thing to do, but I will just own the dentist time if I have to do it. The top two in front had been missing for about four years.
“I scored a goal off my teeth in a preseason game in Boston and knocked them right out. And one time I went to head the ball in sewer ball in the OHL with Oshawa (pre-game hallway soccer) and somebody else went to elbow it. I got tired of fixing them.”
Studnicka, 24, has added 10 pounds of needed muscle, more quickness and plenty of resolve to rebound from a sub-par season, but is in tough amid of glut of wingers. He’s also in the final year of a two-year extension signed with the Bruins that carries a US$762,500 salary cap hit.
While Studnicka is a financial fit, he was a frequent healthy scratch — including 10 of 11 games in March — and was challenged by head coach Rick Tocchet to find consistency and make better puck decisions to become more of a bottom-six roster staple than an option.
“I did not play my best hockey after the All-Star break — I was tentative — and when you have a new coach you only get one first impression and mine wasn’t the best,” admitted Studnicka, who had just eight points (4-4) in 47 games.
“I didn’t deserve to play and had to battle back, but the last five or six games, I had a nice showing of what I can do.
“And I got a lot better over the summer and knew it had to happen. I feel really fresh. I’m excited to get to camp and win a job.
Part of the improvement was buying a house in his hometown of Northville, Mich. and being close to the U.S. National Development Team Program at Plymouth. It’s where he trained with USNTDP players and grads like Quinn Hughes to get a leg up on what awaits.
“I didn’t take much time off,” said Studnicka. “A couple of us stuck around (Vancouver) after the year to kind of get a little head start on how we have to train and I brought that home. The national team has a great facility, great training and nutrition and I took it very seriously this year.”
Studnicka did have his moments last season. When aligned with Dakota Joshua and Nils Aman, he helped form a Crazy 8s line that combined gritty elements to be a forechecking presence. There were dominant shifts where they hemmed in the opposition in its own end.
However, any alignment has to be earned and this is nothing new for Studnicka. He was a 2017 second-round pick of the Bruins and is a centre by trade, but cracking a deep roster down the middle wasn’t going to happen. It’s the same situation here.
Studnicka was acquired in an Oct. 27 trade that sent goaltender Michael Di Pietro and defenceman Jonathan Myrenberg to Boston. And with injured centre Curtis Lazar sidelined for a month, it added another pivot and penalty killer to the Canucks mix.
“I’ve never really come into camp comfortable,” said Studnicka. “Certainly used to the competition and I’m ready to relish it. I just play the game I love and do my thing. I’m going in with a pretty open mind of whatever I’m asked to do.
“Play fast and harder this year and be harder on pucks and the forecheck and maybe run some bodies a little more.”
Studnicka averaged 10:39 of ice time per outing last season and played as little as 5:50 and as much as 14:12. These were some of his late-season efforts:
• On April 8 against Calgary, he had an assist, three shots, six attempts, three hits and a blocked shot in 11:55 of ice time. Eight of his 19 shifts came in the third period in a tight struggle and the 4:08 was the most he logged in any period. He had earned some trust.
• On April 6 against Chicago, he was quieter with one shot, three attempts and two hits in 10:26.
• On April 2 against Seattle, he didn’t register a shot, but had six hits in just 9:29 of ice time, that included 3:57 in the third, more than the previous two frames.
“The way I was raised, it’s not going to be easy,” said Studnicka. “If you have challenges in your life, that’s a good thing. You have keep plugging. I come from a hockey family.
“My brother is four years older and started the training process and I would hop in with his teammates and my dad was the coach. I was younger but I was there.”
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