Every season there are surprises and disappointments. While there has definitely been a fair share of disappointments with the Boston Bruins, there have also been some really pleasant surprises. One is Oskar Steen, who has five points in eight games and is a plus-four. But there is another player who has quietly had an impact on the team this season: Anton Blidh.
Related: Bruins Rookie Spotlight: Oskar Steen
The 26-year-old Blidh is having his breakout year in 2021-22 after earning one of the final roster spots out of training camp, a move that was a surprise at the time, as he and Karson Kuhlman got the final spots “over” Chris Wagner, a veteran, Massachusetts native who has been a fan favorite through the years. While he hasn’t been a consistent starter as the 13th forward on the depth chart, he has found ways to make the most out of his playing time.
Blidh’s Road to the NHL
Blidh was born on March 14, 1995, in Molnlycke, Sweden. The left wing stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs 189 pounds. He spent his junior hockey career playing for Frolunda on their U16, U18, and U20 teams before making his debut in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) in the 2013-14 season.
The Bruins selected Blidh in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Level Draft, 180th overall. He was not a heralded prospect and very much viewed at the time as a “why not?” pick. What he lacked in scoring, he made up for in grittiness, which is what garnered him his selection in the draft.
Blidh played on Sweden’s 2015 World Juniors team and registered one goal and three points in seven games. The following season, he made his North American debut. In the 2015-16 season, he played in 65 games for the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) and registered 10 goals and 14 points.
The following season, 2016-17, Blidh made his NHL debut. He played in 19 games that season, registering a goal and an assist for two points.
Making the Most of His Time
Over the past five seasons, Blidh has found great success in Providence. He was given an “A” in the 2018-19 season and found better success scoring than he had at any other point in his professional playing career. He had a career-high 11 goals in 71 games in 2017-18 and was a plus-nine.
But Blidh was never able to quite find his footing in the NHL. Prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, he had played in 38 NHL games, only registering three career points in that span. Part of it, of course, comes down to opportunity. In 2016-17, he played in 19 NHL games but only averaged 8:47 of ice time a night. Even this season, when he’s playing his best NHL hockey, he’s still playing just under 11 minutes a night.
Blidh is making the most of those 11 minutes, though. In 15 NHL games this season, he has two goals and five assists for seven points — he had two goals in the previous 38 games of his career. On Monday night against the Washington Capitals, he had the first multi-point night of his career.
What stands out the most in Blidh’s game, though, is his willingness to use his body, whether it is blocking shots or throwing hits. The Bruins’ 4-0 loss to the Calgary Flames earlier this season could have been worse if it weren’t for him using his body to break up scoring opportunities (he has nine blocks and 33 hits so far this season). He certainly brings an aggressive fire to the ice, something that has been absent at times this season from the team.
The fourth line has had several different looks throughout this season, with guys coming in and out of the lineup. But Blidh has really made an argument to keep himself in the lineup, even as guys get healthy. Given that a big part of the Bruins turnaround to start the new year has been the terrific play of the bottom-six, there is a pretty strong case to keep him there and to continue to see what he can do with more of a role than just the guy called up to be another body on the ice when guys are injured.
What Happens Next for Blidh?
The Bruins are certainly riding a hot streak to start the new year. They are finally getting depth scoring, and we’re seeing guys other than Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand on the score sheet (though they are still providing plenty of contributions.) The team also recently added more depth at goaltender with the re-signing of Tuukka Rask. Now, if they can add a left-shot defenseman at the trade deadline and keep up the offense, they might really be cooking with gas.
For Blidh, there are certainly no guarantees ahead. While he is playing some of the best hockey of his life, there are a decent number of guys vying for spots on the bottom-six, names such as Steen, Curtis Lazar, Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman, Tomas Nosek, Nick Foligno, and Jake DeBrusk. Some of those guys are currently out with injury, but there is no concrete spot for him on this roster.
But if Blidh continues to play as he has, he is certainly building a strong argument for the Bruins’ coaching staff to keep him around. Given how well the team is doing at the moment, they should ride his current lineup for as long as they can.
Beyond this season, Blidh is making a strong case for a nice contract when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s currently on a two-way, one-year contract worth $750,000. At this rate, he will definitely get a more expensive contract, maybe even a one-way one. But his breakout season might just price him out of what Boston will be able to afford.
The Bruins still have 50 games left to go, so there is plenty of hockey left to be played. Blidh will be an exciting player to keep an eye on as we get further into 2022.
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I’m Hannah Garfield, a graduate of Elon University with degrees in Film and Media Analytics. Currently, I’m pursuing my MFA in Screenwriting at Boston University. I’m a lifelong, passionate Boston sports fan and love all things Bruins.