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Why Sharks Had To Send Studnicka to AHL, How He Has To Change His Game for NHL

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

David Quinn wishes he had played Jack Studnicka more.

Studnicka — acquired by the San Jose Sharks for Nick Cicek and a sixth-round pick earlier this season — was sent down to the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda on Friday.

“I liked his game,” Quinn said of the 24-year-old center, after the Sharks’ 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. “He was playing fast. He skated. He was responsible. My regret is we didn’t use him on the penalty kill. Especially with the way our penalty kill has been going, I should have given him an opportunity.”

Despite that showing, there was an urgency to send Studnicka down. According to Puckpedia, “In order for a player to be assigned to the minors, they need to clear through waivers unless…they previously cleared waivers and have not played in 10 or more cumulative NHL Games since OR been on the NHL roster for 30 cumulative days.”

Studnicka, then with the Vancouver Canucks, had cleared waivers in November, and had gone to the AHL. And since the San Jose Sharks claimed him last month, he had played nine NHL games.

Essentially, Studnicka hadn’t necessarily played well enough to secure his NHL roster spot past nine games and zero points — but the organization liked him enough, they didn’t want to risk putting him on waivers.

Quinn sees this demotion as a potential game-changer for Studnicka.

“I think he’s at a point in his career where he’s trying to figure out how he’s going to be everyday National Hockey League player,” the San Jose Sharks head coach shared. “Sometimes it takes some time to fully understand that you really have to change your game in order to be an everyday player in this league.”

Studnicka, a second-round pick in 2017 by the Boston Bruins, was twice a captain and point-per-game scorer in the OHL, before turning pro. In his first three seasons of AHL hockey, he was a .75 point-per-game scorer. But, his 99 games of NHL action has seen him score just six goals and 16 points.

As Quinn pointed out: “A lot of guys that are third and fourth liners in this league were scorers before they got here, and I think he’s learning that.”

Quinn believes Nico Sturm is good model for Studnicka.

Sturm, who was injured two days before the Sharks made the deal for Studnicka, was a scorer in college, who tallied 45 points in 39 games during his senior season with Clarkson University. In the NHL, however, his career-high is 26 points and he regularly plays a bottom-six, defensive role. He’s also considered a standard-bearer, in terms of compete, throughout the NHL, winning a Stanley Cup in 2022 with the Colorado Avalanche as their fourth-line center.

“Nico brings a lot to the table,” Quinn said. “He understands his role and does it very well.”

So can Studnicka get there? Quinn believes that the tools are there: “He’s a smart kid, he skates, he’s competitive.”

In the AHL, Studnicka will get a lot of playing time and special teams time on both the power play and penalty kill.

“He and I had good conversations yesterday about when he goes down and what he needs to do and we’re certainly on the same page,” Quinn said. “There’s a good future for him here.”

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