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Development Camp Veterans Seeing Improvements, Looking Ahead

Studnicka, Becker, Steen among returners seeing boosts in play over past year

by Michael Tolvo @NHLBruins /

BOSTON - Each year at Bruins Development Camp, new faces walk through the halls at Warrior Ice Arena hoping to and prove themselves in front of the Bruins Brass. While seeing the latest young prospects is exciting, often the biggest standouts are those who are returning to the Brighton practice facility to show their improvement from the previous year.

One of the more prominent and highly touted prospects who is back for another Development Camp is Jack Studnicka. The 2017 2nd round pick is attending his third Development Camp, and while he is not taking the ice this year, his past season showed significant growth.

"The number one impression I'd say for Jack I would say is just his competitiveness," said Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach, who had Studnicka for the 2019 AHL playoffs. "We have him from two years ago too, and he came right in and was right in the mix against men. That's first and foremost with Jack. Whether I am playing him on the fourth line and he's playing eight minutes or this past year with regards to his playing time where he was playing a lot in crucial situations, he's a gamer.

"He is obviously a slight build and he is certainly working on that. I think maturity will come and some pounds will come. He is certainly someone that you just right away know that he is there to compete and he's a player."

Video: Jay Leach discusses prospects at Dev Camp

The 20-year-old center stood out with his intelligent play, notching a goal and an assist in four physical playoff contests against the eventual AHL champions, the Charlotte Checkers.

"This time around I was fortunate enough to get to some playoff games," said Studnicka. "The year before injuries held me out. Playoffs are another level there. It is more physical, it is more fast, good to get more experience under my belt."

During the 2018 training camp in September, Studnicka was a part of the competition for the third-line center position. With another year of experience, the Ontario-native is looking to stick for good.

"That's my goal," said Studnicka. "I think going into any camp you're in the wrong place if your goal isn't to make the team. That's my goal this year, last year and the year before it. I think it should be everyone's goal to try to compete and play at the highest level they can."

Video: Studnicka speaks during Bruins Development Camp

Some of that experience came after his season came to an end, as the young forward stuck around with the Bruins as a Black Ace during their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

"That was awesome," said Studnicka. "One of the best times of my life. Getting to watch the Stanley Cup Finals, live and travel with the team, see what it's all about and be able to soak things in at a huge stage for them and to be able to be there. You know, unfortunate ending but to see it all unravel in front of my eyes was pretty cool."

In Boston, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound pivot was able to watch two elite centers in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.

"They are two high-end players in the National Hockey League. They have been for a long time and they will continue to do that," said Studnicka. "You see what they do off the ice and see what they do that gives them that success."

 While predominantly a center throughout his young career, Studnicka made sure to let the Bruins decision makers know that he can also hold his own on the wing.

"Anything to help the team win in my eyes," said Studnicka. "I will play any position. Obviously, I have said my goal is to be with a big club and its up for them to decide. Whether that is at right wing or center, I am going to work as hard as I can and just compete."

"I think I can contribute offensively. That is what I will be looking to do and just compete. Do all the little things right. That is what the Bruins always talk about and winning battles. So just show I am able to compete at an NHL level."

Wherever Studnicka suits up for the 2019-20 season, he certainly looks the part of a Bruins forward - all the way down to his missing teeth.

"Which time?" Studnicka quipped when asked about how he lost his front two teeth. "They have been knocked out three times. Started off a hit from behind three years ago; fixed them. High Stick; fixed them. And then an elbow playing sewer ball before the games."

On The Rise

Jack Becker was drafted by the Bruins in the 7th round of the 2015 draft just three days after his 18th birthday. Five development camps later, the 22-year-old has seen his game improve with each season.

"I think year-by-year you just gain a little bit more details from the coaches and there are a lot of resources here," said Becker. "I love it. It's a great week every summer."

Members of the Bruins development staff have noticed growth in Becker's game.

"I've been impressed especially with his hands around the net," said Leach. "I know he has put the time in. [Director of Player Development] Jamie [Langenbrunner] told me maybe a year or two ago that this kid really works at his game. Obviously, a big body. I don't know if he's a natural skater, but you can tell that he's really tried to build his strength in his legs, and I think he is really working on his hands. He's looked good in tight."

Despite participating in his fifth development camp, Becker still knows there are things he can learn.

Since being drafted in 2015, Becker spent three seasons with the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede followed by his freshman and sophomore campaigns at the University of Michigan.

"There's a lot of things," said Becker on what he can still learn at Development Camp. "I think I'm really trying to become a better student of the game and learn some more concepts of just how to make things on the ice easier for myself. I'm a big body so every detail I can get to keep the puck better protected is really good to me."

 Video: Becker speaks at fifth Bruins Development Camp

Becker also noted his increased comfort level as well as his opportunity to help familiarize any new guys with the process.

"I just think it's a lot nicer because I know a lot more people," said Becker. "I'm more comfortable asking questions and I can feel like being myself and do what I do on the ice and just be my best so I'm not uncomfortable or anything and I feel like I can take more of a leadership role. Guys can ask me what's going on or what's next on the schedule, so it's good."

One familiar face to Becker is the Bruins 2019 first round selection, Johnny Beecher, who is committed to playing at the University of Michigan in the Fall.

"I've actually met him a couple times," said Becker. "I was up at the draft too so I saw him there, congratulated him. It's pretty awesome that another Michigan man is coming to Boston too, so it's pretty cool."

At Michigan, Beecher can look to emulate Becker's growth on and off the ice.

"I'm really blessed to be at Michigan," said Becker. Just the athletics with the combination of high academics there is just a great situation, meeting some great people. I think I've grown a lot on the ice just with my skills and my skating, especially in getting more powerful. Off the ice I've grown exponentially too, just maturing more into a young man."

Steen Continues To Impress

Another day of Bruins Development Camp was another opportunity for prospect Oskar Steen to impress. Just in the past year, the changes to his game are tangible.

"A lot for me…" said Leach when asked if Steen has changed over the 2018-19 season. "I remember him in the rookie tournament two years ago in Buffalo and I remember the speed but I didn't remember - he was obviously a lighter player. Last year here he was impressive, but this year it seems that he has really matured."

Since his draft in 2016, Steen has progressed from a depth winger in the Swedish Hockey League to one of the top centers in the whole SHL.

"I was able to see a few games online in the playoffs for him last year and he was really quite impressive," said Leach. "He's added an element of playing center, which I really don't know if he has had before. Clearly you can tell he has taken a step and he's is quite impressive."

After a top-10 points finish in the top league in Sweden, Steen will be coming over to North America to play in Providence - or Boston should he claim a spot on the Bruins after training camp.

Video: Steen talks following Day 1 of Development Camp

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