By Sam Kieckhefer | AHL On The Beat Archive
Three teams during the 2014-15 season; seven teams in the past six seasons.
Now, San Diego, California.
At just 21 years old, San Diego Gulls rookie defenseman Brandon Montour has been quite the pilgrim. From 2010 to 2013 he played for three teams in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) He made the jump to the United States Hockey League for the 2013-14 season, playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks. Last season, Montour played 17 games with Waterloo before making the jump to the collegiate level for 21 games with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and then finishing out the season with the Norfolk Admirals (Anaheim’s AHL affiliate at the time) for 14 games.
Anaheim’s second-round pick (55th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Montour hasn’t spent more than a season and a half with the same team since he was 15 years old. Last season alone, Montour went from playing with teenagers in the USHL to playing with professional veterans in the AHL.
With many great coaches, teammates and organizations, it’s hard to pinpoint when things began to click for Montour, but he seems to think it was his time in the USHL where his game began to piece itself together.
“When I was at home [in the GOJHL], I played defense but I was kind of all over the ice. When I went to Waterloo, it was a positional first for me. I didn’t know too much so they brought me aside to show me the ropes.”
Despite focusing on his defense, Montour collected 14 goals and added 48 assists for 62 points in his first USHL season, and was named the USHL Defenseman of the Year and Player of the Year. But with every step of his career, Montour has continued to find the back of the net while improving his game defensively.
“When you’re playing in juniors and the USHL, you’re playing with 16- to 21-year-olds,” said Montour. “College goes to 24-, 25-year-olds. And now pro hockey, some guys are 40.” As for what that means: “The adjustment. There are the bigger and faster guys. Guys are a lot smarter; they’ve been in the league for a while. Plays happen so quick, you have to be on your toes and ready to go.”
Despite the adjustment of playing with teenagers to playing with men in just a single season, Montour has found his rhythm and place in the lineup. In his first 21 games of the season, the young defenseman has collected five goals while adding a team-high 17 assists, co-leading the league in assists while ranking second among league rookies in scoring.
After November, in which Montour notched 15 points in 12 games, the blueliner was recognized as the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month, begging the question of how long will this offensive defenseman remain in the AHL before getting his shot in the big league.
“I’m focused on where I am and helping these guys,” said Montour. “But, the goal is to play in the NHL. Anaheim is the spot to be.”
In just over a year, Montour was drafted by the Ducks, signed a three-year entry-level contract with Anaheim, made his professional debut in the AHL, and now leads San Diego in points and assists during the team’s inaugural season.
To Montour, all the differences lie in the team.
“We just have a great group of guys. Everybody loves to come to the rink.”
And it can’t hurt that the Gulls started 9-2-0-0 in their first 11 games.
Montour admits that playing in San Diego has exceeded his expectations.
“It’s been incredible,” he said. “Before we got here they were saying that people were selling season tickets left, right and center. Actually being here and playing home games, it is really fun for all of us. We’re excited to be in San Diego and play here.
“We go to the beach, go in the water. We hang outside. You can’t beat it out here, that’s for sure.”
While the NHL is his ultimate goal, Montour seems to be pretty happy with where he’s at and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if one day he came back.
“Maybe after hockey, when I’m older … Del Mar,” he said with a smile.
But for now, we hope he gets his chance in Anaheim.