After having a solid training camp with the New Jersey Devils, Joe Blandisi is just missing the cut (for now) as he was among 15 players sent to their AHL affiliate Albany Devils on September 26. He played well in every preseason game he appeared in and he appears to be turning into quite a find for the team thus far. The 21-year-old from Markham, Ontario had his biggest or best highlight with a shorthanded goal that he scored in a 4-2 preseason win against the New York Islanders.
Like the media and fans, head coach John Hynes is also taking notice of Blandisi’s play as he talked about following his first unofficial official win as the new bench boss in New Jersey. “I thought it was a real strong game for him, his skating was a factor; his compete level was a factor. I thought you saw as the game went on he has really good instincts for the game, natural instincts of — offensively how to take ice and you saw on the penalty kill goal he scored, he read the play and he was able to pick the pass off and score a nice goal that way.”
He showed his ability to adapt on the fly on the goal he scored, which will be crucial in the NHL and it also seemed to spark his team in their first home game of the preseason. “It’s a big goalie, you can’t see most of the net. I’m guessing most of the goalies in this league would be pretty big,” Blandisi said following the game to reporters.
GOAL! Joe Blandisi answers immediately with a SHG and we're knotted at 1. #NYIvsNJD
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) September 26, 2015
“I just tried to move to my backhand and open him up — which he did — and I was able to find a spot through his five-hole.” The coaching staff elected to play him, along with a few other players, the following night against the New York Rangers to see how they responded in a back-to-back situation. Blandisi recorded an assist on the power play in the final minute of the second period and Hynes, was impressed as he told the media following the game.
“I thought Blandisi came back with a strong effort. He played real well and he came back again tonight and he was pretty strong in the face-off circle. Again, he was an aggressive type of player and he impacted this game; he impacted it — just him getting under the other team’s skin and really making his presence felt.”
The Hockey Writers spoke with Joe Blandisi to follow up on our article about him prior to training camp following the Islanders game and we find out a little about his decision to sign with the Devils and the invaluable experience gained during the team’s rookie and development camp back in July. And remember fans, there is nothing wrong with a little AHL seasoning and with the impression he made in two weeks of training camp he may be the first call-up if someone gets injured or falters.
The Hockey Writers: When you signed with the Devils in January were there other teams interested in signing you also?
Joe Blandisi: Yeah; I had a pretty explosive start to last season and there was quite a bit of interest (in me). The year before that people didn’t know where I was quite at; I got sick going into my last season and I was a little bit off the radar. Once my first ten or twenty games were finished last year, I think I opened a few teams’ eyes and I guess there was a little bit of a bidding war by the time I was looking to sign.
THW: Is that the only reason you chose New Jersey — they won the bidding war? Or were there other aspects that factored into your decision?
JB: Not at all. To be honest with you New Jersey was the most interested I’d say. They showed a lot of confidence in me. One of the ex-scouts was at a lot of my games and would talk to me quite after the games. You want to be somewhere that people want you to be and I think this is a great opportunity for me. I know they are…I wouldn’t say in a rebuild…but they are looking to get a younger team this year; it’s a great spot for me. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.
THW: A player like Tyler Johnson from the Tampa Bay Lightning, undrafted/comes to the NHL under the radar; is that a situation that you look at and think: that could be me?
JB: For sure, I’ve been behind pretty much my whole hockey career. Never got drafted to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). I was a late draft pick to the NHL (6th round of the 2012 NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche). I wasn’t signed by the team that drafted me; so I’ve dealt with a lot of adversity in my career and I think that’s pushed me to who I am today. There are definitely smaller guys in the NHL that are making a difference on teams and the way the league is turning towards is smaller, faster, quicker players. Especially in New Jersey, they’re looking for offense — and hopefully I can provide that.
He provided not only offense, but some physical play in the home win vs. the Islanders which is part of his identity as coach Hynes said:
THW: How much did being in rookie camp in July help in preparing for this training camp — learning what coach Hynes wants to implement as the new system here?
JB: Definitely, to get a couple of days there with Hynes coaching us in rookie camp — he treated us like pros, he gave us a system; the same system we are using now. To get those first four or five days head start, I guess I could say on the older guys; they maybe are quicker learners, having been in the NHL longer. But it definitely helped me and I think in tonight’s game we stuck to the system pretty well and we outshot them. I think we outworked them in all areas of the ice with the exception of part of the first period; It was a great team effort.
THW: If you don’t make the opening night roster how disappointing will it be?
JB: I wouldn’t say it would be a huge disappointment, but it would obviously be disappointing because I have my mind set on playing here this year. That’s what I wanted to do my whole life, to play in the NHL; it’s been a dream. It will be a little bit disappointing but at the same time that I’m a younger guy here and there’s definitely going to be an opportunity for me to play here in the future.”
Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiabloTHW or via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.