After being taken in the 2nd round 40th overall in the 2012 draft, Dylan Blujus, a Buffalo, NY native, went back to the Brampton (now North Bay) Battalion for two more seasons of Major Junior Hockey in the Ontario Hockey League. In those two years, he improved on his strength and his offensive ability to earn an entry level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning before the 2014-15 season when he made his pro debut with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.
While injuries and the adjustment to the pros slowed him down this year, he still managed to record 22 points in 67 games after putting up 138 points over 295 regular and playoff games in the OHL.
Here’s how the panel ranked him:
|Kyle Alexander||John Fontana||Mike Gallimore||GeoFitz4||Brett Frieman|
Previous Ranks: N/A
Blujus came to the Crunch ready to learn and had a great example to follow in J.P. Cote as a sound defensive professional blueliner in addition to Joey Mormina and Luke Witkowski. With that example and the coaching of former defenseman Rob Zettler and his staff, Blujus earned the Crunch’s Most Improved Player award for 2014-15.
Listed at 6’3" and 205 pounds, Blujus is a solid body. But what really sets him apart is between the ears. He is responsible in his own end and good positionally. His 18 penalty minutes in 67 games shows the kind of discipline that he has and his ability to keep from taking penalties that usually occur when a player gets beat. Forward Joel Vermin was the only Crunch player with more than 35 games played that had fewer penalty minutes.
Next season, look for Blujus to challenge for the top right handed spot on the blueline. The Crunch are a little thin on right handed defensemen with Luke Witkowski likely moving on to Tampa Bay. Anthony DeAngelo will be Blujus’ main competition for that spot. Either way, he will be a key cog for the Crunch’s top 4 defense and penalty kill unit. With more ice time and some potential second power play time, it’s not hard to see Blujus stepping up his offensive output into the 30-40 point range while playing a sound defensive game.
Blujus’ upside potential is as a third pair right handed defenseman with good size in the NHL. He’ll need to continue to show that he is solid defensively and able to pitch in offensively to reach that ceiling. He still has two years on his entry level contract and around the end of that contract he should be in line for a call-up as an injury replacement for the Lightning. Being a right hander in a system that is a little light on right handed defensemen will help him in that regard.
A former second-rounder, Blujus will never be confused for Bobby Orr in the offensive department, but with good size and mobility he's been a good minute-eating two-way option both at the junior level and as a rookie pro. Blujus seems to be a player who understands the limitations in his game and smartly stays in his silo. That's smart. He needs to continue to work on his footwork and pivots and defending plays off the rush. If he does, he could become a solid third pair defenseman down the road in the NHL.
The biggest takeaway after consulting with our very own Crunch Master, Allokago, is that he is not very noticeable. He doesn’t make big hits, he doesn’t make highlight reel passes or rushes with the puck, he doesn’t score a bunch of goals from the blueline. However, he is steady and reliable and that is something that the Crunch lacked on the blueline last season from many of their defensemen. He might fly under the radar for many Crunch and Lightning fans. With his size and mental skill, don’t give up on this young blueliner.
Oh by the way, if you need someone to start a slow clap and dance backup while you sing karaoke, Dylan Blujus is your man.