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Studnicka’s New Approach Could Save His NHL Career



Credit: Dean Tait/Hockey Shots

Jack Studnicka has the physical tools to change. And now, it appears that he has the mindset too.

In January, the San Jose Sharks sent the 25-year-old center to the AHL, with a mandate to change his game.

The 2017 Boston Bruins’ second-round pick had worked his way through juniors and minors as a playmaking center, but through three stints in the NHL with Boston, the Vancouver Canucks, and San Jose, that offensive touch hadn’t quite manifested itself.

Through 99 NHL contests, Studnicka was sitting at six goals and ten assists.

“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,” San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn said after Studnicka’s pointless nine-game debut in teal.

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

For Quinn and the Sharks, it was Studnicka using his 6-foot-2 frame and skating ability as a checking center, first and foremost.

After more than two months with the Barracuda, it’s time to see if Studnicka can swim with the Sharks in such a role.

“I’ve really tried to change the way I approach the game,” Studnicka, recalled yesterday, said. “Rather than offensive stats and points, really focus on the details of the game, like a 50-50 puck, back in the day, maybe I lunge at that and try to go on offense.”

Now, it’s about catching flesh instead of chasing the puck, to steal a phrase from Quinn.

“I wasn’t an overly physical guy coming up the ranks,” Studnicka admitted. “But kind of came to a crossroads in my career and realized that’s what guys do to play in the big leagues. They change their game, and physicality is definitely something that I’ve been trying to work on and hopefully can bring this time around.”

Studnicka also said that he’s been working with Sharks development coach Mike Ricci on faceoffs. And Quinn pledged to give Studnicka plenty of time on the penalty kill to close the season.

“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 said about Studnicka in January.

Studnicka has a great model for that a few stalls down in the San Jose Sharks locker room in Nico Sturm.

Sturm was a big-time scorer at Clarkson College, before re-fashioning himself into one of the better fourth-line centers in the NHL, a Stanley Cup winner with the 2022 Colorado Avalanche in that role.

“He’s a long, rangy centerman, kind of like myself,” Studnicka said. “He plays a really hard game defensively. You can tell that’s what he takes pride in. It’d be nice to learn some things from him going forward.”

In Ricci, Studnicka also has a coach who helped mold Barclay Goodrow from an undrafted free agent into one of the NHL’s premier checking forwards.

Studnicka might be running out of time – he’s a pending RFA, so the Sharks will have to make a decision on him soon.

But it sounds like Studnicka is ready to make that decision a hard one.

“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,” Quinn said.

Why Did Sharks Use Last Regular Recall on Studnicka?

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