Giants defenceman California dreaming of NHL career with Predators

JASON HILLS

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

Jonathan Blum always had to prove the doubters wrong when he was growing up.

It's safe to say nobody is questioning the Vancouver Giants defenceman now.

There was always some kind of knock on Blum. It was either he's a California kid, or he's too small.

But that California kid is a 2007 first-round pick of the Nashville Predators. He's been to two Memorial Cups, winning one. He has a world junior hockey championship to his credit.

He is also the Giants' all-time leader amongst defenceman in goals (37), assists (114) and points (151) and he's not even finished yet.

When he wraps up his WHL career as a Giant -- likely this season -- he'll be the runaway leader in all those categories.

The Giants have been in the WHL since 2001 and have built up a strong history and tradition.

When Blum's career as a Giant is over, he'll slide his name amongst some of the greatest players who have worn the Giants logo the past seven years.

That's a pretty impressive hockey resume for a kid from California.

"Coming from California, a lot of people doubt you pretty quick. I've battled adversity my whole life and I've just found a way to excel," said Blum, who was named team captain this season and was the first player ever from California to be taken in the first round of the NHL draft.

While some of the adversity Blum has faced on the ice have been tough, none hit harder then when he was 15.

That year, he lost his twin sister Ashley in a house fire. Jonathan and the rest of his family were out eating supper. Ashley was at home feeling ill. She was sleeping when the fire broke out.

Then shortly after the death of his sister, his mother Dana was diagnosed with cancer.

That was a lot to deal with for a teen, who was about to embark on his WHL career in a totally different country, thousands of miles away.

"It's always in the back of your head, what you went through. Losing my sister when I was 15 years old, just out of the blue like that, you quickly realize you've got to live life to your full potential every day," Blum said.

"My mom told me go up (to Vancouver), this is your dream and have fun with it. That's what I did, and she's been cancer-free for two years."

Under Giants head coach Don Hay, Blum has turned into one of the best all-around defenceman in the WHL. He's been one of the highest-scoring defencman the past three seasons, and he's either led or been amongst the league leaders in plus/minus.

"I think he's the best player in the league this year. He's got that ability to make that big difference in a game," said Hay, who's helped guide the Giants to the best record in the WHL at 10-0-0-3.

Under Hay's system, he stresses defence and hard work. If players aren't committed, they will be shipped out, no matter what their talent level is.

"We've had a lot of high-end skill guys that have moved on and been successful, but how many championships do they have? We're all about team play. We'd rather win the WHL championship and the Memorial Cup," said Blum.

"We all take on different roles in order to be successful. My second year, I played a shutdown role with Brett Festerling in the Memorial Cup. Having been put in that situation helped me. Last year, at the world juniors, I was playing a shutdown role against (Nikita) Filatov's line and (Kyle) Turris' line from Team Canada."

Barring injury, Blum will be on the U.S. team again this year, when the 2009 world juniors are held in Ottawa.

He got a taste of what the world junior experience was like back in 2006. He was a rookie when Vancouver hosted the event.

"It absolutely blew me away just how much Canadians love hockey and the world junior tournament," said Blum.

"I wasn't exposed to any of that, until then, and with it being in Ottawa this year, it's going to be an unbelievable experience and I am going to have a blast and have fun with it."


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