BostonBruins.com -- Every young player enters Development Camp with the mission of standing out among about 25 of his peers.
It can be a tall task, but for Anton Blidh, that mission became a reality during the summer of 2014.
“Blidh, he’s got some intangibles that you are going to see in the lower-line players,” Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said in July, when asked to list some of the players who had stood out to him during camp. “But I like his grit.”
The Bruins selected the Molnlycke, Sweden native in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. Since then, the left-shot winger has attended two of Boston’s Development Camps, he has played in 26 games in Sweden’s SuperElit league (71 total), he has played in 66 games in the Swedish Hockey League and he has twice represented his home country in the World Junior Championship.
It hasn’t even been two years since he was drafted, but already, the Boston organization — particularly Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney — is seeing Blidh progress precisely as anticipated.
“Anton plays the game at a very high pace, and his speed is always noticeable,” Sweeney said. “He has begun to fill out, and his strength on the ice in battle situations was very evident [during camp].”
Sweeney also noted a certain feistiness that Blidh brings to the ice, comparing him to one beloved Black & Gold winger.
“He plays the game with passion, like [Brad] Marchand,” Sweeney said, “and his puck skills are improving.”
His improvement was evidenced by his selection to Sweden’s World Juniors team, a designation for which Blidh was grateful.
“It’s been a great time here,” Blidh said by phone from Toronto at the end of Sweden’s run in the tournament. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t advance.
“Obviously it was a big honor. I was proud to be on the team. I don’t know what to say — just a big honor to play for Sweden.”
Sweeney was thrilled to see Blidh selected for the tournament.
“Anton fully earned that role because his coaches trust him in all situations, and he has more versatility to his game now,” Sweeney said.
Since returning from World Juniors, Blidh has been focused on improving his strength and his offense as he pushes through the remainder of his season with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League.
“I want to work on my offensive stuff — be stronger on the puck, and my stick-handling and all of that,” Blidh said. “I know I’m a hard-working guy, but if I can improve my offensive side, too, I can be an even better player.”
Blidh is already on the right track as far as taking pride in the defensive side of his game and ensuring he develops into a two-way player — the hallmark of Boston’s system, both in Providence and at the NHL level. Sweeney is confident that if Blidh stays the course and continues to progress at this pace, he will soon become a potent weapon for the B’s.
“Anton's coach in Sweden raved about his practice habits and work ethic, on and off the ice,” Sweeney said. “They have been working with him on his puck play and developing more confidence to hold onto the puck while on the cycle and to not be afraid to make a skilled play.
“His confidence has grown and his recent play at the World Juniors proved that he has the ability to play up in the lineup with more skilled players, all the while maintaining a high energy and effective PK role.”