2016 AHL All-Star Classic: Gulls’ Montour climbing the rungs quickly in NHL quest

By Sean Shapiro
Brandon Montour - San Diego Gulls - 2016 AHL All-Star Game

Photo: San Diego Gulls defenseman and Anaheim Ducks prospect Brandon Montour is second in the AHL in scoring by a defenseman with 32 points in 39 games (courtesy of Scott Thomas Photography/AHL)



If you look at the hockey world as a ladder, Brandon Montour has quickly been jumping from rung to rung.

In a span of two years the 21-year-old defenseman and Anaheim Ducks prospect has jumped from the United States Hockey League to the NCAA to the American Hockey League.

“I’ve just been playing my game at each level, and that’s been good,” Montour said. “I think a lot can be made about making jumps, like you said, but if you worry about that then you’re worrying about the wrong thing.”

That mindset has worked well so far and turned him into an AHL All-Star this past weekend in Syracuse, New York.

At each level, Montour has poured on the points. In his final full season with the Waterloo Blackhawks he had 62 points in 60 games. The next season he started in the USHL, then appeared in 21 games for UMass-Amherst before turning pro and playing 14 games with the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL.

“I think the biggest jump each time has been the size of the players and how smart they are,” Montour said. “Bigger guys are just as talented, while players (in the AHL) make the smarter play and less mistakes than college or the USHL.”

The 14 games with Norfolk helped Montour beat the learning curve for his true rookie season. Now with the San Diego Gulls, he has established himself as one of the best offensive defensemen in the AHL.

Entering the All-Star break, Montour had 32 points (six goals, 26 assists) in 39 games. He has been particularly effective on the power play where he leads the league in power play assists (19) and points (23).

And Montour relies on his offensive game. The defenseman is at his best when he is pushing the play and guiding the attack. The next step is getting better defensively and taking over in even strength situations.

But that is a focus for after the All-Star break. The AHL’s All-Star tournament, with hybrid 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 games, was seemingly custom built for a defenseman like Montour.

“I like it. It’s fun and I think it makes it a little bit more interesting,” Montour said. “It’s really a chance to get to know some other guys in the league and just have fun out there.”

To be fair, Montour has been having fun out there all season. San Diego has been one of the success stories in the AHL’s new California alignment, with that franchise ranking second in the AHL in average attendance.

“It’s great to have the support in San Diego,” Montour said. “It’s nice to play in front of 10,000 people.”

Follow Sean Shapiro on Twitter via @seanshapiro