By Thomas Harrington
A year ago, the Ducks drafted Brandon Montour in the second round, and he was the third player taken that day by the Ducks. In just a year’s time, this late second round pick has turned pro and become one the top defensive prospects in the Ducks’ system.
Montour is an offensive defenseman who was projected to be a long term project when the Ducks drafted him a year ago. Other than Nick Ritchie, every player who the Ducks took last year was expected to be a long term project. However, Montour had other plans. He started the season in the USHL, where he skated in 17 games for the Waterloo Black Hawks and scored six goals and 21 points. From there, he moved to the NCAA where he played in 21 games for the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and scored three goals and 20 points. For some reason, his NCAA eligibility was not ready in time for the start of the season, and he had to wait to join the college ranks in the second semester. Despite playing in only half of the season, as a rookie defenseman, his 20 points were tied for fifth on the team in scoring, he was second in powerplay points with eight, and was second on the team with 17 assists. In March he recorded a career-high three assists and tallied nine points during a six game streak in late January and early February. For his efforts in the shortened season, Montour was named to the 2014-15 Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
After such accomplishments at two levels of hockey last season, Montour made enough of an impression on the Ducks for them to sign him to his entry-level contract in March. After signing with the Ducks, Montour was assigned to the Norfolk Admirals on an Amateur Try Out Contract and immediately had a positive impact. In just 14 games, he scored one goal and 10 points, ranking him 10th among defensemen on the Admirals last season. However, all of those players, except for fellow prospect Shea Theodore who also made his AHL debut around the same time, played in significantly more games than Montour did. Theodore and Montour saw time together on the Admirals’ number one powerplay unit, a spot that they will hopefully dominate together this coming season. While Montour still needs time to fully adjust to the pro game, his jumps in progression this past season were great. His play in the AHL were a clear sign of how much he has come in the last year.
I was very surprised to see that the Ducks had signed Montour to a contract, less than a year after drafting him. However, given how well Montour played this past season, both at the amateur levels and in the AHL, it’s clear that he was ready to make the jump sooner than expected. Montour did not look out of place with the Admirals, and figures to be in a top four defensemen in San Diego this coming season. Along with Theodore and Andrew O’Brien, the Gulls could have some real fire power from the blueline this season.
This coming season, I’d love to see Montour continue his impressive offensive display from last season. However, more importantly, I want him to see how well he adjusts to the professional game over a full season. There have been plenty of instances where a college or junior player joins an AHL team and puts up really good numbers at the end of the season but then seemingly regress significantly the following season. It’s highly unlikely that Montour is able to score at a 0.7 point per game pace next season; however, as long as he is able to play at a high level throughout the season, I’ll be very happy with his development.
He could make it to the NHL this coming season, but I think the season after is much more likely for Montour to make his Anaheim debut. However, he surprised me this past season by how quickly he turned pro, so I would not bet against him at this point in time. If the Ducks do run into injuries on defense this season, Josh Manson, Shane O’Brien, and Theodore are the three defensemen to most likely be called up from San Diego. However, if any of them are not able to be recalled, the Ducks defense is that beat up, or one of them doesn’t play well, then I do believe that Montour would be the next choice to come up to Anaheim.
Montour’s three-year entry-level deal begins this fall, and he will be a restricted free agent when it is over. It’s impossible to know how well he will develop over the next three seasons and what the Ducks’ defense will look like, but as of right now, I have little doubt the Ducks will re-sign him. Depending on what happens with the Ducks’ roster over the next few years, it would not surprise me if he was a full time NHL player by the time his contract is over. If not, he will be just on the cusp, similar to how Manson is right now. A year ago, I had Montour just outside of the Ducks’ top 10 prospects. When I put together that list again before the season starts, there is no doubt that he will have cracked that list with how much he has progressed this past season.
My next prospect update will be on Kevin Roy.
We have been tracking the off-season status of the Ducks prospects. If you want more information about a specific prospect, then please visit here: Ducks Prospects: Summer Updates
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