Rookie Ana­heim Ducks de­fence­man Bran­don Mon­tour from Six Na­tions scores first goal in the NHL

Slick-skat­ing Ohsweken na­tive shows he’s ready for full-time po­si­tion in the NHL

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE MIL­TON

He’s go­ing to score a lot more goals which re­sem­ble that one.

When Ohsweken’s Bran­don Mon­tour streaked in from the right point to one-time a crafty feed from Jakob Sil­fver­berg and beat Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop last Thurs­day, it might have been his first NHL goal but it fit Mon­tour’s scor­ing pro­file.

The 22-year-old rookie de­fence­man, an ac­com­plished skater, was in full fly, knew he had backup mov­ing in be­hind him, timed the shot per­fectly and did the job he was sum­moned to do. Mon­tour had been called up from the Ana­heim Duck’s AHL af­fil­i­ate in San Diego hours be­fore and had taken a cir­cuitous, tir­ing, route from one coast to the other and did not sleep be­fore game time.

It was his sec­ond call-up of the year.

He spent last sea­son, his first as a pro, en­tirely in San Diego — and he’s now played eight NHL games. The eighth in­cluded his first NHL as­sist in the Ducks’ 5-2 vic­tory in Buf­falo Thurs­day night, with a hearty con­tin­gent of f am­ily and friends mak­ing the trip across the river.

Mon­tour, who spent three-plus years play­ing Ju­nior B with the Brant­ford-Cale­do­nia fran­chise, is mak­ing the Ducks’ scout­ing staff look pre­scient. He was cho­sen 55th over­all in the 2014 draft (40 places above his rank­ing) when he was play­ing for a ju­nior team in Iowa which had dis­cov­ered him in Cale­do­nia the pre­vi­ous year.

As a rookie pro last sea­son, Mon­tour fin­ished sec­ond in scor­ing among AHL de­fence­men. With fel­low NHL fresh­men Shea Theodore and Ja­cob Lars­son he is part of the de­fence corps’ fu­ture as the Ducks, like oth­ers in the west, start to evolve to­ward more of an eastern speed game from the ‘heavy hockey’ that has char­ac­ter­ized the con­fer­ence for years.

“The game is chang­ing,” Mon­tour agrees. “The skat­ing has im­proved a lot and I feel like I’m a good enough skater to play in this league. The of­fen­sive game is con­tin­u­ing to grow and more of­fen­sive, smaller, guys like my­self are get­ting a chance. “It’s good to see. “Sami (Vata­nen) is out, that’s why I’m here, I know that, but I feel like I’m ready for this,” he added.

So do oth­ers around the team. Some sug­gest that Mon­tour has be­come the lead­ing light on the Ducks’ blue­line hori­zon, that his abil­ity to find the open man — which ac­tu­ally out­ranks his goalscor­ing touch — can re-ig­nite an of­fence that has be­come slug­gish and un­cre­ative.

“I un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion they’re at with de­fence­men, with the depth they have,” says Mon­tour who has been men­tioned in trade ru­mours, some of them in­volv­ing the Maple Leafs.

Mon­tour, who helped Six Na­tions win a Minto Cup, can’t re­mem­ber the last time he picked up a lacrosse stick , “but I still love that sport. The play­ers I grew up with are do­ing well and hav­ing suc­cess at it, and I’m ex­cited and proud of them. I grew up play­ing both sports and it was tough to leave that. The of­fen­sive role and the hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion def­i­nitely trans­late to hockey.”

Six Na­tions hockey fans hadn’t had much chance to see him play un­til this week, but he ap­pre­ci­ates their fol­low­ing him from afar.

“It’s such a tight-knit com­mu­nity, and ev­ery­body sup­ports ev­ery­body,” he says. “The sup­port I’ve had the past cou­ple of years. They have a Na­tive Amer­i­can kid play­ing at a com­pet­i­tive level and they want to see him.”

Mon­tour could be sent down when Vata­nen is healthy, but it won’t be a per­ma­nent sen­tence or even an un­pleas­ant one. In San Diego, he lives only sec­onds from the beach.

“Ob­vi­ously you can’t beat San Diego,” he smiles. “But be­ing up here is ex­tra spe­cial.”

CHRIS O’MEARA, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ana­heim Ducks’ Bran­don Mon­tour cel­e­brates his first NHL goal against the Tampa Bay Light­ning Satur­day.

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