Jack Studnicka was getting dressed in his Tucson hotel for the Abbotsford Canucks’ game against the Roadrunners when he received the phone call that he was traded to the San Jose Sharks.
“I was very shocked,” Studnicka told San Jose Hockey Now in Denver, after his first Sharks practice. “I was putting on my suit and getting ready for the game when I got the call. But once it set in, I couldn’t have been more excited.”
With the Sharks just so happening to be on the road playing the Arizona Coyotes, Studnicka finished putting on his suit, got a rental car and made the 100-mile, two-hour drive to Tempe to join his new team.
And all the while, he could not help thinking about how exciting the opportunity in front of him was.
“It’s a really good opportunity to try to re-establish myself as an NHL hockey player,” Studnicka said.
Studnicka couldn’t get to the rink in time for that night’s game — he got to Mullett Arena at Arizona State University in the second period of San Jose’s 1-0 loss to the Coyotes after receiving the call at about 4:30 PM — but he was more than excited to get on the ice for a practice the following day.
“It was nice that it wasn’t rushed,” he said. “So I could get a practice in and get to know the guys, break in the new gear, and learn the new system. It’s nice to get a practice in and get set for tomorrow.”
For Studnicka, his arrival in San Jose marks another opportunity to make his mark at the NHL level.
The 24-year-old centerman spent the past five seasons splitting time between the AHL and NHL for the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks.
The 2017 second-round pick has shown promise in spurts — topping out at four goals and eight points in 47 games with the Canucks last season — but could not find consistent playing time being on two teams with very deep forward groups.
“Just a very skilled player,” San Jose Sharks coach David Quinn said of the 6-foot-1, 187-pound forward. “A guy that certainly was highly thought of as a prospect. He’s been in two organizations, but they’ve been really forward-heavy. I don’t know if he’s really got the opportunity that he was looking for. To the fault of nobody.
“He’s still a young player. He’s got some good size to him. He’s got skills, so we’re really excited to have him.”
With the Sharks in a rebuild, they could provide Studnicka his best opportunity at consistent NHL minutes.
And, after being played on the wing at times in his past spots, the idea of playing at his natural position down the middle excites him even more.
“It’s exciting that I get to play center,” Studnicka said. “That’s my natural position. In Boston, they have good players over there. So when I was younger, it was tough to break in, and then you see what Vancouver is doing this year. They brought in a lot of free agents and built a good team there. So I was on the outside looking in.
“I am looking forward to the fresh start and looking forward to seizing it.”
Studnicka got into five NHL games for the Canucks this season, scoring a goal before getting placed on waivers and sent back to AHL Abbotsford in November.
“Having a relationship with guys there, I think he really, really impressed guys throughout training camp,” ex-Vancouver defenseman and current Shark Kyle Burroughs said.
“I think he deserved a bit more of a shot, and obviously they brought in a lot of depth, veteran guys, and that trickle-down effect caused a tough situation. I think, especially with a team like that and they’re off to a good start, they do bring in those guys and those guys need to play, and unfortunately, guys get trickled down and your role gets diminished.”
The Sharks notably had first dibs to claim him off waivers at that point, but did not, opting to hold off until trading Nick Cicek and a 2024 sixth-round pick for him on Friday.
“It was a grind,” Studnicka said. “I went down after training camp and then I came right back up. I didn’t know what the plan was. I played a couple of games, then guys got healthy and I went back down.
“That was the situation I was dealt, but I thought I had a good camp and I knew other people would be watching, so I am excited that they were and I am excited to prove them right.”
Burroughs and Studnicka were teammates last year.
“Off the ice, he is a good kid,” Burroughs said. “He is super-mellow, a happy-go-lucky guy. He kind of blows with the wind and floats like the water. He’s an upbeat guy and he is competitive.
“As a player, he’s got skill. He moves quick, he’s a big body, too, and he was just starting to find his game the last couple of years. I think he is a player, that for us, who can bring a lot to the table. Whether it is offensively, defensively, on special teams and on the penalty kill, I’m excited to have him here.”
Burroughs caught up with his old pal from the Canucks and knows this is the right opportunity for him to get his NHL career going.
And, of course, enjoy living in the beautiful Bay Area.
“For him, playing is the biggest thing,” he said. “Just even talking to him, he is just happy to get here to play, get better, and contribute to this team.
“He is obviously happy about the weather, and that’s one thing we joked about because he is another guy who likes to golf, too.”
Studnicka will get a chance to make an impact right away, likely slotting in on a line with Mike Hoffman and Luke Kunin when the Sharks take on the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.
Playing next to Hoffman — a bona fide 20-goal scorer — will give him a chance to show the San Jose Sharks what he can bring to the table.
“I am hoping to show some skill and some work ethic,” Studnicka said. “Hopefully, you can never question my work ethic and I’m able to produce a little more than past years in the NHL. Other than that, I just want to play a pretty reliable game.”
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