Center Nick Bligh of Dexter School in Brookline was one of the 2011 NEPSIHA tournament's standout performers.
The junior from Milton, Massachusetts led Dexter in scoring this season in goals (27) and points (60) in just 28 games, averaging more than 2 points per contest. His point totals are up from the 17 goals, 48 points he put up last season, so Bligh has been highly productive and continues to take an upward developmental curve.
He saved some of his best hockey for when it counted most: in the Piatelli/Simmons tournament where he fired home two goals and six points in the final two contests in securing Dexter's first-ever small school championship trophy (including a four-assist performance in the championship game, an 8-1 drubbing of New Hampton School).
He's about 6-feet tall and pretty slight, with slender frame that will require some mass and strength at the next level. That said, Bligh is about as slick and skilled as they come. He's a good skater, though not overly explosive. However, he's extremely shifty and loves to take the puck into traffic, where he pulls defenders to him then dishes to wide open teammates. He has tremendous on-ice vision and offensive instincts and a soft touch with his stick. He's also willing to stick his nose in and initiate contact, though he doesn't have the strength yet to be able to throw his weight around in the more physical contests. He's also very good on faceoffs and plays a solid game in all three zones. All in all, from a hockey perspective, there are not many flaws in Bligh's body of work.
He is scheduled to return to Dexter for his senior season, and that will probably not play all that well with NHL scouts who would want to see him challenged at a tougher level. That said, Bligh is committed to the school and its excellent academics, and has made a verbal to attend Dartmouth in 2012.
His coach, Dan Donato, talked to Bruins 2011 Draft Watch about Bligh after the championship was in the books, and his comments pretty well jive with what we saw from the center, right down to the David Krejci reference. Here's what coach Donato (Harvard bench boss Ted Donato's brother) had to say about Bligh:
“You can’t say enough about him. He certainly makes coaches look good. I’m a lot better coach with Nick Bligh than without him. He’s great- Nick’s just got to get a little bigger and stronger, and if he does, he reminds me a lot of David Krejci. He just- the way he moves the puck, he finds the right guy he competes really hard and is just a very good player. I think his upside is great and I think Dartmouth a year from now is going to get a pretty good player.”
Bottom line: Bligh was right up there with Boo Nieves as one of the NEPSIHA tourney's most consistent and dangerous forwards. He doesn't have the flash and speed of Nieves, but he is one of the most cerebral players we saw in any of the games, period. His high-end hockey sense, soft hands and excellent work ethic should translate into him being a very good college hockey player. Even if Bligh isn't drafted in June, keep an eye on this outstanding young man in the future. In time, he could work his way into the pro mix with a free agent contract and make some noise. We just can't say enough about him as a player and person.
But, enough from us, here is some exclusive B2011DW video of Bligh from the tourney. He'll tell you who he is and what he brings to the table in his own words.