By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The game is faster, the players bigger and the skill level higher.
It can be a steep learning curve for many rookie players as they make the transition from midget hockey into the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
While it took some time – 27 games – for the Gens’ first pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection to score his first game, Jack Studnicka says he believes his debut season has been a success.
“I think my first season went really well. I learned a lot from the older guys in the room and all the coaches. That’s what your first year is about,” he says.
“I think I did a good job and performed to the best of my ability at most times and other times I’ve just got to keep learning and keep working hard.”
And work hard he did, playing in 62 of Oshawa’s 68 regular season games, the majority of those absences coming after he was selected as part of Team Canada’s U17 roster (where he played six games, scoring a goal and five assists).
Being selected in the first round, Studnicka joins the the ranks of a skilled group of previous top picks in Scott Laughton, Boone Jenner and Cole Cassels. Laughton and Jenner have both gone onto NHL careers, playing for Philadelphia and Columbus respectively, while Cassels, drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 2013, is currently playing for the Utica Comets, their American Hockey League affiliate.
When Studnicka was announced as the Generals’ top pick, then-head coach DJ Smith likened the rookie to a bigger version of Cassels, who many fans will remember for his skilled offense and strong defense that helped Oshawa to a Memorial Cup last season.
From his rookie numbers, it’s clear Studnicka knows how to put the puck in the net.
Before making the move to the OHL, Studnicka tallied 31 goals and 58 assists in 71 games with the Detroit Belle Tire U16 midget team.
In his first regular season with Oshawa, he tallied up four goals and 22 assists.
Studnicka says it was the defensive zone that he worked on the most this season, due to his size and facing the increased physicality of the OHL.
“Coach Jones really worked on me at the start, me being one of the smaller guys in the league,” he says. “I have to learn to be on the defensive side of some of the bigger guys I couldn’t out-muscle, so I think that’s something I’ve really worked on.”
As he gets onto the other side of the learning curve, the right-handed centreman will prove to be a valuable asset for Oshawa and a key piece in their rebuild. His play will be sure to draw the attention of the NHL scouts as Studnicka becomes eligible for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.