Photo credit:Ontario Hockey League
Josh Bloom could play a larger-than-expected role with the Abbotsford Canucks in 2023–24
By Mike Gould6 months ago
How, exactly, did the Vancouver Canucks manage to steal Josh Bloom from the Buffalo Sabres last season?
Riley Stillman wasn’t working out in Vancouver. Not by a long shot. He’d been the Canucks’ “prize” after paying a second-round pick to dump Jason Dickinson’s contract on the Chicago Blackhawks, but he’d struggled to establish a foothold through 32 games in the blue and green.
Back in February, ahead of the 2023 trade deadline, the Canucks sent Stillman to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Bloom, a promising prospect who might’ve just been a casualty of the Sabres’ bursting forward pipeline. One team’s afterthought is another’s treasure, right?
Bloom is eligible to turn pro in the Canucks’ system in the 2023–24 season, and with Abbotsford looking to run with a pretty young group this year, there’s a chance he could be one of the team’s better wingers — even though he only just turned 20 in June.
Let’s take a quick look back at Bloom’s career in the Ontario Hockey League. He split the 2022–23 season between the Saginaw Spirit and North Bay Battalion, collecting 32 goals and 71 points in 68 games.
Bloom proved to be a terrific acquisition for a Battalion team with championship aspirations, adding 25 goals and 55 points to his totals in 49 games down the stretch. He racked up 12 points in 20 OHL playoff games as the Battalion made it to the Eastern Conference Final, falling in seven games to the Peterborough Petes.
Abbotsford has a lot of natural centres who have been playing wing for the team in recent seasons. Guys like Tristen Nielsen and Danila Klimovich have plenty of experience playing down the middle but spent much of last year playing a flank.
With Justin Dowling no longer around, the Canucks might need someone to shift back to centre — which would, in theory, create a bit more breathing room for a player like Bloom to make an impact as a rookie. Plus, if Nils Höglander does end up returning to the NHL, there’ll be another spot to fill in the lineup.
That’s not to say there won’t be stiff competition. Top prospect Aidan McDonough might end up spending the season in Abbotsford. Arshdeep Bains will be looking to build upon his strong rookie season. Linus Karlsson, Chase Wouters, Aatu Räty, and Max Sasson all have high bars to clear.
As a 20-year-old, Bloom won’t have nearly the same burden of high expectations as his more experienced counterparts, but he already has enough strong professional habits to be an effective AHL player at a relatively young age. If Bloom ends up finding a fit alongside a skilled centre like Räty, that Stillman trade could become more and more lopsided with each passing game.
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