While he hasn’t registered a point in eight games, Devils fans should be pleasantly surprised by the play of rookie forward Joseph Blandisi in his first NHL season. After tallying five goals and 14 points in his first 19 games since his second call-up, his production dropped considerably. He has no goals and three assists in his last 18 games. He’s been getting ample top-six and power play time, which is a testament to the organization’s dedication to the implementing youth movement. The 21-year old forward is undoubtedly getting every opportunity to see where he stands in terms of his NHL readiness but at this point in the Devils season, it might be time for a change of scenery.
I’m not talking about a trade just to set the record straight, rather a demotion back to Albany, who’s primed to make their second playoff run in three years. In 24 AHL contests, Blandisi had seven goals and 21 points. He can play out the remaining six games of Albany’s regular season, which will give him plenty of time to make any necessary tweaks or transitions to head coach Rick Kowalsky’s coaching style. In Albany, Blandisi will get top minutes, and automatically become an instrumental part to how much success Albany achieves in the playoffs. This is the Devil’s best finish in years, so there’s a certain expectation level this team must meet in their postseason run that’ll make their tremendous regular season performance worthwhile.
In terms of Blandisi’s development, the experience he would get with Albany over the next couple of weeks will be paramount due to his lack of general postseason experience in the OHL. Over four seasons, Blandisi appeared in just 15 postseason contests with the Owen Sound Attack (2012 – five games) and Barrie Colts (2015 – nine games). He registered six goals and 14 points in his latest OHL playoff run with Barrie, which is a good sign considering how his playoff numbers followed up a 52-goal regular season. It remains to be seen if the Markham, Ontario native can make the same transition in a league with a higher competition and skill level than the CHL offered, but hopes are high that he’ll exceed expectations.
Blandisi started last game on the Devils’ fourth line with Stephen Gionta and Bobby Farnham. His ice time of 14:11 is (although by mere seconds) the lowest he’s played in 11 games. 5:01 of his playing time however, was on the power play so he ultimately had less than ten minutes of five-on-five ice time. Obviously, he won’t get those kinds of minutes in the minors. If anyone’s concerned about Blandisi’s recent lack of production, let’s keep in mind that this is his first season playing in both the AHL and NHL. He’s done considerably well compared to the parade of draft and signing busts that made vain attempts to help provide that scoring boost this team’s sorely needed for the past few seasons, and since the NHL Devils aren’t going anywhere, Blandisi has an opportunity to play beyond New Jersey’s regular season and still achieve success in his first year with the organization.