Another summer is upon us, which means another round of player reviews. AnaheimDucks.com will feature a different Ducks player throughout the summer (in numerical order), highlighting key stats while also keeping an eye on next season. Next up is defenseman Brandon Montour.
Though the sample size was small, the return was enormous. Montour's first venture into National Hockey League waters made it seem like he'd been playing in the show for years. Fearless, determined and confident, Montour left a dazzling first impression on those fortunate enough to see him in action.
After spending the first two months of the season in the minors with the San Diego Gulls, Montour made his highly-anticipated NHL debut on December 29 at Calgary. He finished the night with 17:54 TOI and would go on to play four more games before being reassigned to the Gulls. Then, on February 4 in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montour tallied his first career NHL goal - a blistering one-timer displaying his offensive instincts.
Video: ANA@TBL: Montour buries one-timer for first NHL goal
He'd eventually finish the 2016-17 campaign with six points (2g/4a) and a +11 rating in 27 games, co-leading the team in plus/minus from March 1 through the end of the season. He averaged 17:22 TOI per game, finished with 50 shots on goals and didn't look overwhelmed or out of place alongside veteran Cam Fowler. Together, the duo anchored the top pair and stayed together throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Montour took his game to another level once the postseason rolled around, the magnitude of the moment seemingly never too much to handle. He went on to earn seven points (all assists) in 17 games and set a franchise mark for rookie postseason plus/minus (+4) in Game 3 of the Second Round against the Edmonton Oilers. Montour ranked tied for second among all postseason leaders and led all rookies in plus/minus (+14), and also finished second among all rookies in assists - just one behind Pittsburgh's Jake Guentzel.
Perhaps his best moment of the postseason - and proof of what he is capable of doing - came in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final when he joined the rush after being hemmed deep in his own zone. Catching up to the play, he received a touch-pass from Jakob Silfverberg in the high slot and walked in on Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. Though his point-blank shot was stopped by Rinne's left pad, the rebound was punched in by Chris Wagner, giving the Ducks a 1-0 lead with 7:14 remaining in the second period.
Video: NSH@ANA, Gm5: Wagner buries Montour's rebound
You can label Montour as an offensive defenseman, but he proved last season that he's much more than a one-dimensional player. Montour drew big assignments alongside Fowler, and his defensive game was equally impressive. Even though Montour isn't an overly physical player, he won't shy away from mixing it up. His tremendous skating ability allows him to cover a ton of ice in a short amount of time, and he could very well be Anaheim's most explosive skater.
He will enter the upcoming season with a new number - 26 - replacing the one assigned to him when he attended camp for the first time (71). Nevertheless, expectations are at an all-time high now - not just for him, but for the team as well. How will he hold up over the course of a full NHL season? Will he suffer from the dreaded "sophomore slump," or will his inexperience lead to painful learning curves? Only time will tell. However, one is certain: With Montour, the Ducks have themselves one of the finest young defensemen in the league.