The Providence Bruins face the tall task of defeating the Charlotte Checkers in their first-round match-up of the Calder Cup Playoffs, after Charlotte’s historic season earned them the top seed in the Eastern Conference. If Providence is able to do so, it will likely be in no small part due to the efforts of their newest addition. Forward Jack Studnicka, the Boston Bruins’ 2017 second-round pick and the player considered by many to be their top prospect, has joined Providence following the end of his junior season. In a strange turnaround, Studnicka and the stacked Niagara Ice Dogs simply could not figure out fellow Bruins prospect Kyle Keyser in net and were surprisingly knocked off by his Oshawa Generals in the second round of the OHL Playoffs. Oshawa had traded Studnicka to Niagara earlier in the season, yet somehow emerged from the match-up with their former captain. Now, Stunicka has to move on from his junior season and try to help Providence immediately in their own playoff run. He was able to make an instant impact last year, recording five points in five games with the P-Bruins. This time around, he could be an even bigger threat. Studnicka scored at better than a point-per-game pace with both Oshawa and Niagara this season, totaling 83 points in 60 games. He’s also trying to impress the Boston brass, as Studnicka’s OHL career is over and this is his first step toward cracking the Bruins’ roster next season. Adding a motivated and talented top prospect to the mix should be a major boost for Providence.
The P-Bruins have also added a local product to the roster, reports Mark Divver of The Providence Journal. Divver writes that Providence College senior Scott Conway has joined the team and has signed a one-year AHL contract as well. Conway, 24, is coming off an interesting collegiate career, in which he showed consistent success but also flashed next-level ability that never fully manifested. After his freshman year at Penn State University, in which he recorded a respectable 26 points in 34 games, Conway opted to leave the program and played the 2015-16 season outside of the NCAA with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees. Conway was a star in the BCHL, amassing a league-leading 116 points while skating alongside Colorado Avalanche center Tyson Jost and quickly committed to a new college team in Providence. Yet, in three seasons with the Friars, Conway’s numbers were no better than they were with the Nittany Lions. It’s thus unclear what the ceiling may be for the experienced English forward, who dominated the junior-A level, but failed to reach stardom at the college level. The Bruins likely got a good look at the local product and willing to see what he can bring to the table next season.
- Like Studnicka, two other highly-touted junior prospects have also joined their respective AHL teams for the playoff run. Defenseman Evan Bouchard, who played in seven games with the Edmonton Oilers to begin the season, has been assigned to the Bakersfield Condors, the team announced. Last year’s tenth overall pick notched 53 points in 45 games with the OHL’s London Knights this year and added another three points at the World Juniors with Team Canada. Bouchard is a near-lock to make the Oilers out of camp next season and can further improve those odds with a strong stretch of play for the Condors. Ben Jones, a seventh-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, has already proven to be a steal and will look to advance that title with his first pro experience. A teammate of Studnicka’s in Niagara, Jones led the team with 102 points on the year, but was held in check in the postseason compared to his fellow Ice Dogs standouts. Nevertheless, Jones will still be an exciting addition for the Chicago Wolves after a top-ten scoring season in the OHL. Having graduated from the junior level, this is also a peak into what’s in store for Jones next season in the pros.
- Like Conway, another promising undrafted prospect has been brought in by an AHL team just prior to the postseason, only that team didn’t qualify for the postseason. Forward Keeghan Howdeshell of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds has signed a one-year deal with the Tuscon Roadrunners, his former club revealed. The Roadrunners are already looking ahead to next season after failing to grab one of the final spots in the Western Conference playoff picture, much like their parent club. Howdeshell, 21, finished tied for second in scoring for the Greyhounds this year with 77 points in 66 games. The U.S. National Team Development Program product seemed likely to be drafted but was instead passed over several times. He has since re-established his value and will look to translate his game to the pro level with Tuscon next season. A strong campaign could lead to Howdeshell earning an entry-level deal with the Arizona Coyotes.