The Big ‘D’

Throughout the month of August, will be taking a one-by-one look at the players on the Bobcats’ Training Camp Roster. Today’s installment covers Bobcats defenseman Levi Blom.

Name: Levi Blom

Position: Defenseman

Hometown: Butte, MT

2011-12 Team: Helena Bighorns

2011-12 Stats: 44 GP, 2 G, 30 A, 32 PTS, +36, 78 PIM

Childhood NHL Idol: Paul Kariya

Favorite Movie: 21 Jump Street

Highlight of 2011-12: “There was a moment in the middle of last season when I put a big hit on a guy and it created a turnover that turned into a goal; it was special because our coach, who doesn’t usually smile, was elated.”

Last Line

Over the past few seasons, the Bismarck Bobcats have been just as well-known for offensive-minded defensemen—Sam Rendle, Ben Danford, Danny Ray, Donald Olivieri—as they have for stay-at-home blueliners—Myles Harvey, John Avino, Ben Danford, Jeremy O’Keefe.

Though blueliners with offensive flair are the ones that grab headlines more often than not, Bobcat newcomer defenseman Levi Blom firmly plants himself in the stay-at-home camp.

“Nothing gets behind me when I’m out there—that’s my attitude,” asserted Blom. “I can jump up and get in the play and contribute offensively if I need to but my priority is defense. I want to do everything I can to keep the other team from scoring.”

With his own end being a main focus, Blom’s priorities on the ice are understandably team oriented.

“My favorite play is making a big hit,” asserted Blom, “because it can change momentum and it gets the guys fired up. I like to lay it on the line, too, so I’d even rather block a shot and stop a scoring chance than score one myself.”

Blom’s attitude, combined with players like O’Keefe and Rory Vesel coming back, veterans known for their play in their own end, has his 2012-13 Bobcat teammates thinking defense.

“I was really impressed with how defensive our ‘D’ was playing at Main Camp,” said Bobcat forward Patrick Moore, the Cats’ top-scoring rookie from 2011-12. “We got into a lot of high-scoring games last year and I already get the feel that this team will be strong in our own end.

“And with those guys playing good defense behind us, it could give us more confidence up front to make plays.”

The numbers bear out Blom’s defensive commitment, as well: the Montanan was in the top ten of +/- in the AWHL during the 2011-12 season with a +36 rating.

Go East, Young Man

Many Bobcat players come from places like Minnesota, Massachusetts or Chicago, where exposure can be relatively easy to find. For Levi Blom, hailing from western Montana, exposure was a bit more elusive.

“Playing in Montana, it’s rough,” confessed Blom. “It’s more of a football state, so there aren’t as many places to play and it can be a challenge to move up.”

Faced with an uphill climb to advance his dream, the defenseman took control of his own fate with a bold move.

“I decided to move to Michigan in high school to play AAA, and really it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got to learn so much more about the game and play with a lot of skilled guys who ended up making me better, too.”

When the opportunity for Blom to return home to Montana to play in juniors with the Helena Bighorns last season, though, he moved back west to make the move to juniors.

Blom needed a bit of a readjustment from the style of hockey in the Great Lakes to the more physical AWHL.

“It was a lot tougher brand of hockey than I’d been playing in Michigan,” assessed Blom, “but I liked it. There was lot more hitting and that’s the kind of game I enjoy playing.”

He may not have known it, but the blueliner’s career was already tangentially tied to Bobcat Hockey, as the Bighorns and Bobcats formerly shared a rivalry in the AWHL before the league merged with the NAHL in 2003.

Turning Point

Playing in Helena was highly formative for the player that Blom is today thanks to his head coach with the Bighorns, Scott Cunningham.

“Coach Cunningham worked really hard to make us better and make sure the right people saw us,” Blom credited, “but he never led anyone on or pumped their tires if they didn’t deserve it. He was really honest with us.”

One major point that Cunningham stressed in his defensemen was making a good first pass.

“He was very demanding that we make that smart plays with the puck. That first pass was the biggest thing.”

Ultimately, that demand may have been what caught the Bobcats’ attention at their Denver Pre-Draft Camp in May.

“Levi was one of the best defensemen we saw in either of our Pre-Draft Camps,” noted Bobcats assistant coach Garrett Roth. “He was very physical and very good with his first pass.”

The rave reviews from the Bobcat staff earned Blom an invite to the team’s Main Camp in July, which he parlayed into a spot on the training camp roster.

Stay tuned to over the next month as we take you in-depth with every player on the Training Camp Roster in preparation for the 2012-13 season.