Love Of The Game Leads To Blandisi’s First NHL Recall

ALBANY, NY — Joseph Blandisi finished the 2014-15 season fourth in the Ontario Hockey League in scoring with 112 points. The three players ahead of him (Dylan Strome, Mitchell Marner, and Connor McDavid) were picked third, fourth, and first respectively in the 2015 NHL Draft.

In 2012, the Colorado Avalanche selected Blandisi with the 162nd draft pick. Three years later, Blandisi is finally getting his shot to play professional hockey, and he’s making the most of it.

The New Jersey Devils signed Blandisi to a three-year contract on January 14, 2015. After his first Devils training camp, he was assigned to Albany where he remained until being recalled by New Jersey Thursday.

In his first 18 career AHL games, Blandisi has 16 points on seven goals and nine assists. He has scored on 31.8 percent of his shots so far, the third highest percentage in the AHL.

The numbers are strong for Blandisi, but hockey is a team game, and the rookie is quick to credit his teammates.

“I think my linemates have been helping me a lot,” Blandisi said. “We have a lot of chemistry, we work pretty well together. The coaching staff has given me a lot of confidence, given me an opportunity to play and kept their faith in me.”

The road to Albany has been a long and winding one for Blandisi. Over the past four seasons, Blandisi has played for three different OHL teams before signing with the Devils and taking advantage of a good opportunity.

“I think there was the most opportunity to play here,” Blandisi said back in November. “I wanted a spot where I’m going to be able to play and develop and I like what they’re doing with me right now and I’m glad with the decision I made.”

His teammates are happy he made that decision as well.

“He’s great,” said last year’s leading goal scorer Paul Thompson. “He’s a good player. He’s a young kid, but he plays hard every night. That’s really all you could ask for. His skill level and his speed takes over because he works the right way every night.”

Devils coach Rick Kowalsky is also impressed with Blandisi’s attitude.

“He loves the game,” Kowalsky said. “He’d play every shift if we let him. He’s really starting to look comfortable with the puck and what I’ve been impressed with is he’s gotten better without it.”

Blandisi would agree with his coach’s assessment. He said he started playing hockey when he was three years old and rollerblading around his parents’ house in a pair of blades they got for him.

“Ever since then I’ve just loved the game,” Blandisi said. “My parents are always supportive of whatever I wanted to do and it’s brought me here today.”

Blandisi hopes the journey will lead him to a full-time role in New Jersey, and he will do whatever it takes to get that opportunity.

“I think just being a consistent player, be a professional every day,” Blandisi said. “If I just play a strong defensive game like I think I have the last couple games I think hopefully I can get the chance soon.”

While Blandisi and the NJ Devils are preparing for their contest Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, the A-Devils hosts the Syracuse Crunch Friday at 7 pm.