As soon as Samuel Blais was acquired by the Islanders, it was clear he was going to help the team out.
After being traded from the Victoriaville Tigres during the December trading period, Blais immediately became the top scorer on the Islanders.
Scoring was something the team was struggling with in the first half of the season, but Blais helped to ignite a spark on the team to fix that in the second half.
“Sam was in a group of guys that came in after Christmas that changed the fate and fortunes of our team,” said Head Coach Jim Hulton. “Things were pretty bleak in mid-December for this group and it was obvious to all that we needed to change some things.”
That change came by swapping Alex Goulet for Blais, providing a change of scenery for both players.
“I was a little bit surprised to come here but (Victoriaville) said to me there was a chance I would be traded at Christmas, so I was happy to come here,” said Blais. “With Sprong coming back, it was fun for me and we have a good team now so it’s pretty nice.”
The most noticeable difference before and after the trades made at Christmas was the atmosphere in the dressing room, said Hulton.
“More so than what happened on the ice, I think it renewed hope and optimism in our dressing room.
“He’s got a care-free attitude, he’s a guy that loves playing the game, he’s a natural offensive player and he’s come in and been a top-notch player.”
Blais’ presence has also made the players around him better, as well as helping the power play numbers increase dramatically.
“He’s another guy to have the luxury that he can play on a couple of different lines. We seem to have caught lightning in a bottle with that line with Kielly and Coughler,” said Hulton.
“The area I look at is that our power play numbers shot through the roof when we acquired Sammy and Daniel (Sprong came) back. One of his biggest strengths is playing on the power play.”
While offence has been no problem for Blais, he said he’s also been trying to improve his defensive play.
“I wanted to improve my defence, because next year if I play pro it’s not sure that I’m going to have an offensive role right away, so I need to be good on the two sides. It’s a good improvement for me.”
Blais has an entry-level contract with the St. Louis Blues and would be eligible to play in the American Hockey League next season if the Blues decide to keep him there.
“The coach uses me in penalty killing and in (Victoriaville) he was not using me on the PK, so I think I’m a lot better in defence. That’s what the Blues want for me, so I’m really happy about my game right now.”