Sabers’ upcoming Josh Bloom learns with the Amerks after the junior season break | Buffalo Sabers news

ROCHESTER – Josh Bloom wasn’t far off as he stood among the Rochester Americans on the ice at the Blue Cross Arena hours before the memorable playoff round ended with a third overtime loss.

Bloom’s left-hand skate shot looks ready for professional hockey. The 6-foot-2 striker needs to get stronger, but he’ll have plenty of time to do so. At just 18 years old, he couldn’t make an appearance for the Amerks after signing a three-year entry contract with the Buffalo Sabers in April.

The NHL development agreement with the Canadian Hockey League, which governs Canada’s three largest junior leagues, will prevent Bloom from wearing the Amerks jersey in a game until he turns 20, which won’t happen until June 2023. The amateurs experience throughout the season, where they trained alongside With potential Cypress teammates Jack Quinn and JJ Petrka during the playoff match and the ensuing run to the third round of the Calder Cup qualifiers.

“It was crazy, frankly,” he told The Buffalo News. “It’s just a great learning experience for me.”

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Bloom described the development opportunity as “unbelievable,” one he hadn’t imagined a year ago when he wasn’t sure if or when he would be selected for the NHL draft. He, like many others, has not had a 2020-21 season because the Ontario Hockey League cannot operate under the provincial government’s Covid-19 restrictions.

Only NHL teams had a video from Bloom’s junior season with Saginaw when he was 16 and receiving limited ice time. There weren’t any joint scouts to learn more about him either. Through research and a fact-finding trip to see Bloom skate solo, Cypress decided to recruit him for the third round, #95 overall.

He quickly emerged as a potential watchdog in the organization, scoring 30 goals with Saginaw at OHL to earn his first professional contract and a booth in the Amerks dressing room during the playoff round.

“I was really relieved that someone was going to seize me because realistically, it was an opportunity,” Bloom added. “They haven’t seen me play since I was 16, and you’re recruiting an 18-year-old. It’s very hard work, but I think Buffalo did an incredible job doing his homework and he felt comfortable with the choice. It was a very relaxing place for me. “.

Bloom was in the office of Saginaw Spirit general manager Dave Drinkel when he noticed a photo of the 2019-20 team that was first in the OHL Western Division when its season was suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The list included five strikers who were drafted by NHL teams, including two in the first round, or who went on to play professional hockey at some level.

“How was I supposed to play that year? ‘ he told Drunkel, who described this realization as the moment Bloom’s eyes open.

It is common for first-year players to have difficulty entering OHL, especially forwards. It’s hard to make time and space to score goals because the competition is often older, bigger and stronger. Ice time can be rare in an aging team. At the time, Saginaw had high-end prospects Cole Perfetti and Ryan Suzuki. There were 11 strikers aged 18 or over.

“They are young stars in the league, they are top-tier picks in our league,” Drinkell said of the OHL starters. “They play 25 minutes a night on a small hockey team that only wears nine or 10 forwards, so they play every game of strength and penalty kicks. After that, they joined our league, and man like Josh, we had a strong team, one of the best in the Canadian Hockey League. , and found himself fighting to get into the squad, which is normal in a really good team.

“The turn of the fourth line, on some nights he plays nine, 10 minutes, seven, eight minutes. Sometimes he plays 12-13, depending on our team and how our coach uses it.”

Slowly, Bloom found ways to use his skill to make a difference. He scored three goals and eight points in Saginaw’s last seven games before the season ended. The scout took notice, but his hockey career was paused during a vital period in his development. Sixteen months passed between that Final with the Soul and the 2021 NHL Draft.

While the world waited for normalcy to return, Bloom gained strength by working at his family’s home in Oakville, Ont. When possible, skate with a skills trainer near Hamilton. These sessions have become more frequent as restrictions are eased or lifted. NHL teams wondered what to do with Bloom and whether he’s planning as a future professional making the difference.

Graham Beamish, a Sabers amateur scout, contacted Drinkill and others to learn more about Bloom as a person and to ask about his character. Every review was glowing. Drangell and his crew sent Bloom’s pre-season video with the soul to the NHL teams, including those final games where he seemed to solve what was holding him back.

Beamish then took a trip across the border to see Bloom snowboard with his skill coach, a necessary step to see how he’s developed physically since he was 16.

The Bloom family got together to enlist last July and she doesn’t know if she has reason to celebrate. Expectations were wide. It can be drafted up to the second round or not drafted at all. Then the call came. He snapped a video of his family when his choice was announced by Buffalo on TV and received so many text messages that he thought his old iPhone was about to break.

“It was absolutely unbelievable how that happened,” Bloom recalls. “I went into the day with a completely open mind. I had no idea whether or not I would be chosen, where I would be chosen. I think that made the day so special without expectations. It was a really special and unbelievable day.”

Sabers’ decision doesn’t seem like much of a risk now. Bigger, stronger and wiser at the start of the season, Bloom scored 30 goals and 61 points in 67 games. His seven short cuts ranked him second in the OHL, and he had 20 strengths with Saginaw. This happened after Bloom was a top performer in the Cypress Prediction Challenge last September, showing off his speed and skill against his peers.

The Spirit has missed the OHL playoffs this season, but Bloom’s third year in Saginaw will be spending alongside Michael Mensa, the 15-year-old striker who carved out a special status to join the league a year ago. Mensa will have an older striker there to teach him that attacking won’t be easy as an OHL first-year player.

“Now Josh is 18 in our league, he’s gained a lot of size and credit to him, he’s worked so hard during Covid,” said Drinkel. “He put in weight to be able to do that and keep his pace. He’s just a dangerous player. He’s dangerous from dashing, he’s learned how to get into tight areas in traffic to score. He was fatally shorthand because he figured out when to pick and pick his spots when he goes and defeats D” .”

Bloom will likely return to Buffalo next month for development camp and again in September to challenge prospects. He plans to spend his summer in the gym to build more strength, and on the ice, he’s preparing for his final season of junior hockey. He’ll get lessons learned from competing against top leads and Rochester veterans, where he’s been able to see how Quinn, Petrka, Peyton Cripps and others have prepared for matches and compete against each other in practice.

Bloom said of his season: “It was a giant step in my career and it kind of affected me being absent from the second year here and there, and I still had new inclinations in the third year game.” “I think after my third year and getting into fourth, this is going to be big and I’m going to make big strides next summer. Just excited to show what I can do in another year.”

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