After being spurned by American colleges, Jonathan Blum has proven he is one of the best American defense prospects.
Blum, named team captain, will play a major role on the U.S. blue line when the 2009 World Junior Championship is held Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ottawa.
Of the seven defenseman chosen for the American team, Blum is the only one not currently playing NCAA hockey. Not that he didn't want to, of course.
"When I was younger, no colleges or the national program was looking past the Rockies," Blum, a native of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., told NHL.com. "I didn't get much exposure from contacts or college teams, so I decided to go to the Western Hockey League because of that."
It turned into a fortuitous move. Blum joined the Vancouver Giants, and the Nashville Predators
selected him with the 23rd pick of the 2007 Entry Draft. Now in his fourth season with the Giants, he leads WHL defensemen with 44 points in 28 games.
"I went to a lot of tournaments in Western Canada and I was scouted by WHL teams," Blum said. "The Giants drafted me in the amateur draft and I've been in Vancouver since then."
While Blum plays in Canada now, he is honored to be representing his home country for the first time at the World Junior Championship.
"This is a great opportunity to play for my country for the first time," Blum said. "This tournament features the best of the best and I've always wanted to go against the best. We have a good team this year and it should be a pretty good tournament."
Despite Canada having the home-country advantage, Blum said he's looking forward to playing in the nation's capital.
"I think playing this tournament in Canada is easy because of the transition," he said. "You don't have to travel and you're used to the food and stuff like that so it makes things a little bit easier. Playing in Canada is going to be that much more exciting and tougher because they are the No. 1 team and they are playing in front of their home fans and it makes things that much tougher."
When Blum and Team USA face the Canadians on New Year's Eve, he will be see a familiar face behind the Canadian bench -- Team Canada coach Pat Quinn
is a part-owner of the Giants.
"I've met him a couple times and he's spoken a couple words to the team," Blum said. "It will be fun going against him because he is the Canadian coach."
While Quinn and Blum may not have the closest of relationships, the veteran NHL coach and GM will dole out advice Blum certainly takes to heart.
"I see him every once in a while when he comes to the games, Christmas parties and other team functions," Blum said. "At the end of the year we see him and we talk. I'll definitely go say hi to him when I see him in Ottawa."
While Blum will represent the Giants in Vancouver, two of his teammates weren't so lucky. Quinn had a hand in the decision to make goalie Tyson Sexsmith
and center Evander Kane
two of the final cuts. Blum believes both players are proud of him for making the team, and he won't be afraid to gloat if he brings home a gold medal.
"I think they are happy for me that I made the American team," Blum said. "They are two pretty good players, but if we win gold, of course I will stick it to them."
While Blum has little to no experience playing with his Team USA teammates, he's sure he won't have problems getting used to them pretty quickly.
"I don't think adjusting to other players is that hard because they are all good players," he said. "The thing you have to get used to is what you're comfortable with when you have the puck and little stuff like that. It makes things that much easier when you are playing with great defensemen to play with a new team."
It's not that different from when Blum joined the Giants. There was an adjustment period, and then he began to thrive.
"Playing in the WHL is a little different because you are playing in a different country and they do stuff a little bit differently," Blum said. "It took me a little while to get used to it in my first year, but you get used to it. I've been in Vancouver for four years and I've pretty much been glad up there. The transition is the hardest part."
It seems like he's settled in just fine.
Contact Adam Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org.