For all the fanfare a first round draft pick gets in the NHL, there have been many star players that went unheralded throughout their junior career, not attracting much attention until blossoming into stars at the NHL level. From Dustin Byfuglien (245th in 2003) to John Klingberg (131st in 2010), the league is littered with late-round picks that have blossomed into high-profile studs.
The Anaheim Ducks seem to have selected a potential diamond in the rough, as defenseman Brandon Montour is biding his time with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. Fresh off being named an AHL All-Star in his rookie professional season, Montour is turning heads with his play and could be a candidate for a late-season call-up for the surging Ducks.
Overlooked, but not Overwhelmed
Born in 1994, Montour was passed over in the OHL Draft and spent his initial draft season playing for the Brantford Eagles of the GOJHL. Despite showcasing flashes of his ability with 36 points in 51 games, questions about his size and two-way game dropped him out of the top 210 players taken in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Despite standing under six feet tall and weighing in at less than 170 pounds, Montour showed flashes of high offensive upside in the same vein as other undersized defenders such as Tyson Barrie.
Montour upped his game the next season in the GOJHL, topping all defensemen with 18 goals and 67 points. Despite this dramatic increase in production, Montour was once again passed over, leading to him making the jump to play in the United States Hockey League (USHL). It was playing for USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks the following season where Montour made the biggest impression, leading all defenders with 62 points in just 60 games. After capturing both the league’s Best Player and Best Defenseman awards, Anaheim was all too happy to snap up Montour with 2014’s 55th overall pick.
Brandon Montour: From NCAA to 2016 AHL All-Star
Following brief 17 and 20-game stints with Waterloo and at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, respectively, Montour made his professional debut with the Norfolk Admirals, notching 10 points in 14 games and showing enough skill to become a featured player on the team the next season. While he impressed many in the Ducks organization in his first taste of professional hockey, Montour has really spread his wings (so to speak) in his first full professional season and now leads the San Diego Gulls (the Ducks’ affiliate) in points.
He has put up points at every level he’s played, notching 20 points in 21 games with the UMass Minutemen and making the All-Rookie team despite playing the least amount of games of any player with more than 20 points. This season, Montour leads all AHL rookie defenseman in points and finds himself second among all AHL blueliners. Despite playing with not much offensive support in San Diego, Montour still has led the Gulls to a third-place spot in their division and looking primed to make a playoff push.
Possessing great skating and elite puck-moving abilities, Montour has blossomed into one of the AHL’s very best offensive defensemen. Considering the lack of offense the Ducks have received from their young defense corps, adding Montour down the stretch could be a boon to Anaheim’s playoff aspirations. Montour is one of the top prospects in the Ducks’ system, and if he can continue the torrid scoring pace he has been showcasing in the AHL, he could become a key contributor for the Ducks as early as next year.
Joseph Aleong is an At-Large writer for THW from Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Follow him on Twitter @josephaleong11