For every kid that has laced up his skates on a frigid Saturday morning at the Holiday or Leisure Rinks in Buffalo, the dream is always the same: to play in the NHL one day. That dream is getting closer to becoming reality for Buffalo’s own Dylan Blujus, and it’s expected to come to fruition this weekend at the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh.
A six-foot-three, 193-pound defenseman, Blujus (pronounced blue-juice) played midget hockey with the Buffalo Regals before spending the last two seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s Brampton Battalion. He’s the 71st ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, but is projected to go 57th overall by The Hockey News. Regardless of where he’s picked, Blujus says it’s hard to believe this is finally happening.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of growing up, and it almost feels kind of surreal to me right now that it’s right around the corner and actually happening. It’s been a dream of mine for a while. It hasn’t really kicked in yet. It’s kind of a weird feeling. But I guess this is the start of everything right here.”
In 67 games with Brampton this season, the 18-year-old Blujus led all Battalion blueliners in scoring by posting career highs in goals (seven), assists (27) and points (34) in 67 games. While he admits that improving his physical play is something he needs to work on (he only had 38 PIM’s this season), Blujus prefers to play a puck-moving style of game, and was a key cog in the Battalion power play with his heavy point shot.
If that sounds like a familiar playing style to Buffalo fans, it should. Blujus is a lifelong Sabres fan who lists Tyler Myers as his favorite NHL player.
“My game is along the lines of his. I know he’s got a little more height than me, but we’re similar in the way that we don’t go looking for the big hit,” says Blujus. “I like the way that he’s such a big guy and he makes it look so easy out there. He’s a great skater who can go end-to-end with the puck so easily, and that’s one thing I always like to do. I always enjoy watching Myers play along with the Sabres because they’re my favorite team and always have been.”
The last few weeks have been interesting for Blujus, as he’s had to do more talking off the ice than on it. He was one of 100 top prospects invited to the NHL Scouting Combine in early June, where he interviewed with 15 different NHL teams over the course of the week. That was followed by a trip to the Sabres team combine where he went through on- and off-ice testing.
But while this can be a mentally-draining process for some kids, Blujus has been able to call on someone in the family for advice. His sister Brittany is married to Dan Gronkowski, a tight end with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. The two have spoken many times about the draft process and what it takes to make it in professional sports.
“I talk to Dan quite often, especially heading into the draft. He’s given me some key words of advice, and how to handle some of the questions that I’d get leading into it. It’s great that he’s already gone through all the things that I’m going through, even if it is in a different sport. It’s been good to have him there to talk to.”