Josh Bloom: Sabres Prospect Dive

Taken in the 3rd round (95th overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft, left winger Josh Bloom was not really on the radar of draft pundits back in July. This mostly due to the OHL season in 2020-21 being cancelled as Bloom played 0 games in his first draft eligible season.

A fairly modest DY-1 season saw Bloom put up 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in 54 games for Saginaw but the size and skill set that Bloom possessed, was clearly there. Entering the 2021-22 season, Bloom was made an assistant captain for Saginaw and has taken the league by storm early on.

Bloom has already surpassed his DY-1 goal and point totals in 39 fewer games, sitting at 20 points (12 goals, 8 assists). Half of that production has been at even strength and Bloom has recorded at least one point in 11 or 15 games on the season. Currently sitting 20th in the OHL in points, Bloom ranks 7th among DY+1 OHL players.

Bloom pNHLe Josh Bloom: Sabres Prospect Dive

Per Mason Black’s NHL Rank King app, Bloom has made huge strides in the pNHLe model which attempts to project a prospects point production ceiling in the NHL. While the model doesn’t guarantee future NHL success, it serves as a tool to show that from an offensive perspective, Bloom is trending up and exceeding expectations for a 3rd round pick.

As someone who was skeptical of the Bloom pick immediately when it happened, Bloom has done nothing but impress me this year and has elevated into one of my favorite Sabres prospects. In this article, I touch on some aspects of Bloom’s game that have helped him succeed, where he needs to improve, and an outlook for his future in the Sabres pipeline.

Game Positives

Penalty Killing

Bloom has been a huge factor in the success Saginaw has had on the Penalty Kill this year. Boasting a league best 91% kill rate, Saginaw has given up just 6 power play goals and scored 6 short handed of their own.

Already with 4 short handed goals on the year, Bloom has used excellent awareness to identify moments to take off for breakaway chances on the PK. Once he gets moving, he’s been impossible to catch up to in these instances and has been excellent at burying his opportunities on the PK.

While the short handed goals have been great, it’s what Bloom has done away from the puck that has made Saginaw so successful while down a man. Playing an aggressive style, Bloom applies pressure and simultaneously takes away passing lanes while forcing the opponent to go one way with the puck.

By eliminating outlets, Bloom helps out the other 3 defenders on the ice anticipate quicker where the puck is going to go. This allows them to be proactive with their positioning and break up disrupt the powerplay, often times ending with steals and dump outs.

What stands out in the two video clips above is how quickly Bloom gets out to the point and then sweeps towards the opponent, forcing them to the outside. Bloom’s positioning dictates where the opposing team has to go with the puck and disrupts their intentions on the power play.

Speed

Bloom can generate a ton of power and has excellent acceleration as evidenced in the clip below. Starting in his own end, Bloom seems effortlessly get up to top speed, which forces the defenders to back up.

Having the ability to skate by players with high end acceleration and speed has created many breakaway chances for Bloom this year. While the straight line speed is nice, Bloom also possesses burst and short area quickness to create separation from the opposing team. In the clip below, Bloom reacts off the faceoff and quickly gets to the puck.

Bloom keeps his feet moving the entire time on this play and enables him to beat the defender wide. It’s not until Bloom has reached the faceoff dot does he stop moving his feet and take a shot, which would not have been possible about his effort and speed.

Transition

Currently at a 53% Corsi on the year, Bloom has generally been on the positive side of the shot share. Sans a few games where his line struggled mightily, Bloom has done an excellent job using his speed to drive transition. Creating controlled exits and entries on his own, Bloom is averaging 1.7 controlled exits and 3.1 controlled entries per game per InStat Hockey.

What is great about Bloom’s transition game is his insistence to drive towards the net when carrying the puck. Bloom has incredible timing on when to start building up speed to exit his end, which makes him so hard to defend in the neutral zone. As seen in the clip below, Bloom starts accelerating in the defensive zone and carries the puck through center ice and into opponent territory.

As Bloom skates down the wing, he identifies that he won’t be able to drive to the net successfully and opts to take the puck into the corner. When the option to skate behind the net gets taken away, Bloom stops and feeds the puck back to the point. This type of mentality is what leads to sustained possession in the offensive zone and in turns, helps create more shot attempts and scoring chances for.

Shot

Given how much more physically developed Bloom is compared to others in the OHL, it’s no surprise that he has one of the stronger shots in the league. While he has only taken 47 shots on the season, Bloom has a 25.5% shooting percentage.

Bloom’s shot is one of his best assets, as he has a quick release and can generate a lot of velocity, making stopping the puck difficult for junior goalies. Bloom is very good at placing his shot on the net in places that frequently beat goalies clean. Per InStat Hockey’s shot map for Bloom, he places the majority of his shots just below goaltenders gloves and has a lot of success targeting those areas.

Bloom Shot Map Josh Bloom: Sabres Prospect Dive

In his goal above, Bloom barely has the puck on his stick before releasing an accurate shot that beats the goalie. Prospects who naturally have this type of shooting talent can get themselves far by continuing to rely on what makes them successful at generating offense.

One last example of Bloom’s shot placement and release is shown below. After taking the breakaway pass, Bloom gets in close and once again uses his quick release snap shot to beat the goalie.

Areas to Improve

Playmaking

The biggest area Bloom could stand to get better at is his creativity with the puck. There’s no doubt that Bloom has the shooting talent to be a contributor on offense but becoming more of a multidimensional threat with the puck will only force teams to respect him more.

Bloom already shows off high end offensive awareness and the ability to diagnose situations where he can maintain puck possession. Applying these natural instincts to setting up scoring chances will only increase Bloom’s offensive production ceiling.

Risk Taking

Bloom shows a desire to hit a home run on plays which will him leave the defensive zone early at times. While the aggressiveness has yielded some great opportunities for the young winger, being more selective about when to take those opportunities to not take himself out of position would be a good thing for Bloom to develop.

In the clip above, Bloom exits the zone early in anticipation of a breakaway pass. While he has taken chances like this with a lot of success, it’s still a high risk play that Bloom needs to be cognizant of as he’s able to get away with it at the OHL level but is a trait that will require some maturing as he plays at higher levels of hockey.

Skating

I’ve touched on how Bloom possesses incredible speed and acceleration but from a technicality standpoint, his skating stride could be cleaned up a bit. It’s remarkable how fast Bloom is even with some technical flaws as it certainly doesn’t seem to prevent him from making an impact.

The reason I would like to see Bloom improve his skating stride is that he can become an even greater dynamic threat with and without the puck by doing so. By changing his posture slightly and angle with which he pushes off, Bloom could increase his overall speed while being more efficient, which would require him to expend less energy with each stride.

From a posture perspective, having a solid base to rely on when being checked will allow Bloom to use his size to his advantage against stronger opponents. Maintaining speed when being checked is a key trait to have at the NHL level and with Bloom’s natural size and speed, he seems perfect to play the role of a puck carrier who cannot be knocked off the puck.

Future

When looking at the full set of tools that Josh Bloom has, there certainly is the potential to be a bottom 6 player in the NHL with some offensive upside. There’s value in his penalty killing ability and while he may max out as a 3rd line winger, Bloom has the shooting talent and size to be an impact forward in the NHL.

As with most players selected after the 1st round, Bloom will need a few years to develop before seriously being given a chance to make the NHL. Regardless, Bloom is a Sabres prospect who fans will want to keep a close eye on going forward.

Given how little tape there was on Bloom after the cancelled OHL season, Kevyn Adams and his scouting department deserve recognition for finding a player with Bloom’s skill set and targeting him in the draft.

Credits

  • InStat Hockey
  • Eliteprospects.com
  • Mason Black (@NHLRankKing)

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