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Canucks trade Riley Stillman for prospect Josh Bloom

The Canucks added another winger to their prospect pool in exchange for a struggling defenceman.
The Vancouver Canucks have acquired prospect Josh Bloom from the Buffalo Sabres.

The Vancouver Canucks added another prospect to their pool on Monday.

The Canucks traded defenceman Riley Stillman to the Buffalo Sabres in return for 19-year-old winger Josh Bloom.

It's a bit of a surprising trade, as it seemed unlikely that Stillman had much value. The 24-year-old defenceman came to the Canucks as part of a cap dump trade, with the Canucks sending Jason Dickinson and a second-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks to clear Dickinson's contract from their books, receiving Stillman in return.

Stillman struggled significantly in Vancouver, getting buried in the defensive zone. His defensive reads were questionable and he was frequently second to pucks. He earned a rare "F" grade in PITB's midseason report card

The one area where Stillman held his own was on the penalty kill, where he was one of the Canucks' better penalty killers. Unfortunately, being one of the best penalty killers on possibly the worst penalty kill in NHL history is damning with faint praise.

But Stillman evidently still held some trade value, as Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin was able to finagle a legitimate prospect out of the Sabres.

Josh Bloom was selected in the third round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft after a lost season — Bloom didn't play in his draft year because of the OHL cancelling their season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, Bloom has blossomed.

"I took advantage of the time I was given during quarantine to get in the gym and on the ice," said Bloom last season. "I wouldn't say I'm a different player, but more developed and much more comfortable this year than I was just a couple of years ago."

Bloom had 30 goals and 61 points in 67 games in his post-draft season, solid production for an 18-year-old winger who had missed an entire year of development, and it earned him an entry-level contract with the Sabres. He's followed that up this season with 58 points in 59 games but has particularly thrived since a trade to the North Bay Battalion. 

"Josh is coming in as one of the top players in our league already," said Battalion general manager Adam Dennis after acquiring him. "His speed, tenacity and leadership will complement our room very well. He had laid a great foundation in Saginaw. We feel like you win with players like Josh on your team."

Bloom was the captain of the Spirit before the trade, a sign of his leadership ability, while his skills on the ice make him a dangerous goalscorer. Speed is the calling card of his game, using it both offensively and defensively, with scouts praising his two-way game and penalty killing. He has a league-high four shorthanded goals this season.

"Lots of speed. I’m fast everywhere I play,” said Bloom. “I’m a big body who’s still learning how to use it, but at the same time, I can make an impact offensively and defensively. Whether I’m scoring, whether I’m not, I’ll find ways to impact the game and help the team out."

His progression has been noticed.

"It's like he's a completely different player," said a scout quoted in The Hockey News. "The improvements in his game have been immense. There's so much potential in Bloom's game now."

As with any mid-round prospect, Bloom remains a long shot to be an impact player in the NHL but getting a prospect with legitimate potential for a defenceman who has not looked like an NHL player is a big win for the Canucks. 

As an added bonus, the Canucks clear Stillman's $1.35 million cap hit from their books for the remainder of this season and next season.