Jan. 4, 2018

Brandon Montour is adapting to life in Southern California as an NHL player with the Anaheim Ducks

By Josh Cooper – Gulls Correspondent

It’s hard to tell that Brandon Montour is from Brantford, Ontario and not somewhere in Southern California.

The 23-year-old Ducks defenseman is often seen with a backwards hat and admits he has a chill” and “laid back” California vibe about him. The only real hint of Ontario comes in his Canadian accent, and that’s about it.

“I’ve been here for three years now, so this is home for me and you think about where people are freezing cold right now, like it’s snowing in Calgary. Things like that. You appreciate where you are,” said Montour. “I’m going out there with a t-shirt on so you can’t beat where we’re playing. You don’t take it for granted for sure.”

Montour’s assimilation into pro hockey in California started quickly when he notched 57 points in 68 games with the San Diego Gulls in 2015-16. He showed enough improvements last year with San Diego with 13 goals and 32 points in 36 games to merit a call-up to the Ducks.

This season Montour is a full-fledged NHL player with Anaheim and has notched 19 points in 39 games. Though Montour’s success has come from his own hard work and skill, his training in San Diego with the Gulls as his first pro experience had a major impact on him.

“Speaking as somebody who went through the process in Norfolk, the development system the Ducks kind of put in place where you might get a shot and they send you back down and even if you maybe did decently, it’s better for your development over time and I think the proof’s in the pudding with Brandon. He has played great so far for us,” said Ducks defenseman Josh Manson. “He has come in and adapted to the NHL level. He has learned to adjust his game to the style the NHL needs.”

According to Montour, there was a lot to appreciate about San Diego.

He mentioned the coaching staff led by Dallas Eakins and what they did for him. He talked about his teammates and how he created bonds that are still strong with many of them in Anaheim. Plus, there was the weather, the community and the atmosphere at Valley View Casino Center that really made a mark on him.

“With hockey, just being at that rink and seeing the fans and the amount of fans that support [the Gulls], it was just overall great,” said Montour.

So far with Anaheim, Montour’s more veteran teammates have noticed he has picked up the nuances of the game quickly at the NHL level. Not only is Montour putting up points, he is also averaging 19:57 minutes of ice-time per-game.

“I think he came in with the attitude that he still wanted to prove that he was an NHL defenseman and prove that he could play every game. I think he has done a good job of that,” said teammate Kevin Bieksa. “There’s obviously a learning curve. He has been really good on the power play, he has been really good offensively and he’s learning the rest of the game as well.”

Part of Montour’s effectiveness has had to do with his innate overall abilities. The coaching staff has noticed that he’s the right type of player for today’s game.

“I think you’re talking about a young player who is transitioning from an American Hockey League roster to an NHL roster and he didn’t have to change his game,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. “He didn’t have to change what he did down there that works here because the mobility and the transitioning of the puck are things that come natural to him and that’s the way defenses in the NHL are built now.”

There has also been a nice comfort level with Montour in Anaheim because some of his San Diego teammates also graduated to the NHL, including Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase, Chris Wagner, John Gibson and Kevin Roy. It’s a testament to Anaheim’s drafting as well as the team’s development of its prospects.

“Last year you kind of got that feeling, where a group of us from our first year popped up and it was nice to be involved and experience it all with each other as new guys [in the NHL],” said Montour. “You just hop on the freeway there and you drive an hour, hour and a half and you’re here.”