ANAHEIM — In his second season with the Ducks, Brandon Montour went from exciting prospect to bonafide top-six defenceman.
His rookie season set a high bar. After making his debut, the Brantford, Ontario native collected six points and an impressive plus-11 as the team made its run to the Western Conference Final. His blend of speed and high-end offensive skills were on full display, earning him opportunities alongside Cam Fowler during the playoff run.
Armed with a lower number and some early success, Montour entered the 2017-18 season looking to cement his spot on the roster.
His early production locked him in.
With several key players out of the lineup to start the season, Montour shouldered the load and chipped in more offence. He posted four goals and seven points in 11 October games, then added six points in 13 games during November. He helped quarterback the power play and provided stellar defence in his own end.
Despite drawing tough assignments on a nightly basis, Montour posted an almost 50% Corsi-For rating while helping the team outscore opponents by 11 goals at even strength. His Corsi numbers sat just below two of the best in the league – Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson – and proved what many saw – his improved defence and his innate ability to produce quality offensive chances.
While his goal scoring cooled in the middle of the season, Montour finished with three goals over the final two months to help guide the team into a second place finish in the Pacific Division.
He finished the regular season co-leading all NHL defenseman with five game-winning goals, and ranked second among Ducks defensemen in goals (nine) and tied for second in points (32). His game-winning goals total matched a franchise record for defensemen set by Oleg Tverdovsky (1999-2000) and Niclas Havelid (2002-03).
With the increased production came increased ice time. Montour saw his average ice time increase by over three minutes, placing him among the team leaders.
The organization signed Montour to a two-year contract this summer, giving the restricted free agent security and the ability to continue his progression into a potential two-way impact player.
“For the most part, as a player, I didn’t really know what exactly I am right now,” Montour said after signing the contract. “I know my strengths and believe in myself helping this team and being a key contributor to my team as of now and moving forward.
“We all agreed with a shorter term. Getting better as we keep going on. I’ve only played close to 150 games. The shorter term was the best fit for both of us. As we go on in the next year or two, we’ll chat for hopefully a longer term like the rest of my D corps.”
It’s clear the organization and coaching staff believe in his abilities. By the end of the season, Montour found himself among the team’s top four defensemen, facing the tough minutes and opponent’s top lines on a nightly basis. The expectation remains he’ll continue to improve his defensive game while providing more consistent offense.
It’s easy to see why Montour became a fan favourite. His mix of high-end skill, exciting play – and a strong social media presence – make him one of the team’s key young pieces to sustain success.