Laker Nation

Know Your Bobcat – Blake Busch

Throughout the months of August and September, will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment features Bobcat rookie forward Blake Busch.

Name: Blake Busch

Position: Forward

Hometown: Prior Lake, MN

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 195 lbs.

2012-13 Team: Prior Lake High School

2012-13 Stats: 25 GP, 10 G, 14 A, 24 PTS, 22 PIM, 4 PPG, 1 GWG

Favorite Food: Steak, medium rare

Favorite Hobby: Spending time with family and friends

Highlight of 2012-13: “When we won the Silver Division at the Schwan Cup; not only was it exciting—we beat Lakeville South twice, including the championship, but it’s also great to pave the way for the future of the program, since next year [Prior Lake] will play in the Gold Division.”

Full Bloom

Despite being the top scorer for a program that finished five games over .500 in Minneapolis’ prestigious South Suburban Conference, Bismarck Bobcats forward Blake Busch was not as well-scouted as players from nearby Burnsville and Eagan—but the Bobcat rookie didn’t take it personally.

“I was a late bloomer,” explained Busch, who averaged nearly a point per game for Prior Lake High School in 2012-13. “I shot up about four inches between my sophomore and junior years and I pretty much had to reinvent my game.”

Another major transition that aided Busch’s evolution as a player happened to coincide with his growth spurt during the 2011 offseason: his family moved 10 miles south to Prior Lake from the town of Shakopee, necessitating a transfer from Shakopee High School.

If Busch wanted to make his new squad, he needed to change his role.

“When I played for Shakopee, I was more of a skill guy,” illustrated the former Laker, “but Prior Lake was a much better, more skilled team and I knew that I was going to have to adopt a more physical, grinding kind of game. I was still getting used to being taller, but I was able to get stronger in the corners and on the wall and step up and play bigger.”

In fact, the Bobcat newcomer views the change in scenery as pivotal to his long-term hockey career.

“I don’t think I’d be here with the Bobcats right now if I hadn’t moved to Prior Lake,” offered Busch. “Changing how I played and adapting my game to contribute in Prior Lake definitely set me on the right path to play in the NAHL.”

During his junior year, the forward notched six goals and eight assists, but used his senior offseason to take his game to the next level.

“I really trained hard in the offseason before senior year and hit the gym to add muscle and be a stronger player,” revealed Busch.

His production jumped by ten points as a senior, and he started finding his way onto the NAHL radar.

“Blake was second in scoring at the Xposure Showcase at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, which is where he caught my attention,” recalled Bobcats Midwest regional scout Aaron Venasky.

Power Up

Having seen the results of combining his size with his skill in his final year with the Lakers, Blake Busch has fully embraced the role of the power forward.

“My favorite spot on the ice is right in front of the net,” asserted Busch. “If you put yourself in the right spot and out-muscle the guy next to you, you’re in a great spot where the puck will bounce right to you.”

Of course, the front of the net is one of the toughest areas for a player to establish position, between being in the line of fire from point shots and physical harassment from the opposing defense.

Busch is undeterred.

“I love it,” offered the forward with a grin. “I can deflect the outside shots and I don’t mind the other teams’ ‘D’ giving it to me because I like giving it right back to them.”

That attitude carries over to the defensive end for the rookie, as well.

“It’s the same kind of concept on ‘D’: you work hard and play in the gritty areas and the results are going to follow,” Busch outlined.

It’s a mentality that put him front and center with the Bobcat coaches.

“Watching Blake, every game he seems to get stronger and play better,” analyzed Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. “When it comes to power forwards, you definitely want to see a guy who elevates his physicality as time goes on instead of wearing down.”

Pre Party

Thanks to a strong showing at the Xposure Showcase, Venasky invited Busch to sign up for the Cats’ pre-draft open camp in his home arena, Dakotah Sport & Fitness in Prior Lake.

Busch excelled at the late May camp despite a little bit of anxiety.

“It was the first junior tryout I’d been a part of so it was definitely a nerve-wracking experience,” confessed Busch, “but I went out and did my best to play strong along the wall and make plays in front of the net.”

His performance earned him a spot at the 80-man Main Camp at the VFW Sports Center, but the coaches gave him a little homework for the intervening month and a half.

“They told me to hit the gym and keep building my strength,” relayed Busch. “It was good advice because the level of competition jumped up big time at Main Camp. There were a lot of really skilled guys there so being physical and being a hard worker was my way to stand out.”

In the same vein as open camp, a successful showing at Main Camp merited Busch a spot on the training camp roster.

His excitement was easy to spot; Busch soon took to Twitter to share the good news of making it to training camp.

“So pumped to be a part of the Bismarck Bobcats hockey team,” he wrote. “Hard work pays off!”

Stay tuned to over the next month-plus as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2013-14 season. This week we’ll also sit down with Jeremy Norway and Will Pavek.