Today’s Nashville Predators prospect spotlight is on Milwaukee Admirals D Jonathan Blum.
Selected by the Preds in the 1st round (23rd overall) of the 2007 draft, Blum became the first player from southern California ever to be picked in the opening round. After two World Junior Championship appearances for the United States and a solid junior career with the Vancouver Giants that included 204 points (49G-155A) in 248 games and one WHL championship, Blum made the jump to the pro game with the Milwaukee Admirals for the 2009-10 season.
Blum’s first season in the AHL saw him play in 80 games and posted 41 points (11G-30A) with a +17 rating and just 32 minutes in the box as the Ads claimed the division title. That put Blum on the radar in Nashville. In 2010-11, he followed up on his successful freshman campaign with another solid performance. After posting 34 points (7G-27A) in his first 54 games, Blum was called up to Nashville late in the season.
Though he only played in 22 games with the Predators in 2010-11, Blum impressed. The young defenseman showed good awareness and discipline on the ice, playing a team-first game and taking just four minor penalties during the regular season (and none at all during the playoffs).
He was a steady enough presence on the ice that Coach Barry Trotz gave him an average of 17:45 TOI in his regular season games. That crept up to 18:51 during the Preds’ 12 playoff games against Anaheim and Vancouver, demonstrating the trust he had earned from the coaching staff since coming up from Milwaukee.
The 2011-12 season wasn’t a total reversal from the previous year, but it was pretty close. Blum made the Predators roster out of training camp and was called on regularly to play on the third defensive pairing. He averaged 17:56 TOI but didn’t look like the same confident young player from the year before. He looked worse on the ice and that was reflected in his stats. He posted fewer points in more games and his −14 rating was poor enough that he was sent back to the AHL. Once there, things didn’t get much better. Blum put up fewer points (26) and more PIMs (36) than the year before, along with an ugly −11 rating for the season.
Bad as things were for Blum last year, a long-term spot with the club is still a possibility for Jonathon Blum. By the end of last season Preds assistant GM Paul Fenton said Blum was “getting his game back in order,” and the team signed him to a 1-year, two-way contract signed during the offseason. Had the lockout never happened, Blum was expected to compete for a sixth- or seventh-defenseman spot on Nashville’s roster in training camp. He’ll probably still get the chance to play for the Predators if the lockout ends. But facing competition from a talented young group of defensemen that includes Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm, this could very well be his make-or-break year with Nashville.