Local hockey player sees ups and downs in his first pro season
Brock Montgomery has experienced a lot in his first season as professional hockey player.
© Photo by Chris Pullen, Cranbrook's foto source
Brock Montgomery in action with the Kootenay Ice.
There have been high and lows, call-ups and demotions. The 21-year-old Moose Jaw product is taking it all in stride. After not being drafted in the Western Hockey League he is used to fighting to earn his opportunities.
"It's been good. In my whole career I haven't had the easiest of routes, so I'm not too worried about having a tough first year. It opens your eyes up to a lot of things," said Montgomery. "The whole season has been a roller coaster. From going to my first NHL training camp to being down in the East Coast (league). I've been able to see every level from the NHL to East Coast, so I don't think it's a bad thing."
Following a four-year career with the Kootenay Ice, Montgomery signed a one-year deal with the Texas Stars — the American Hockey League affiliate of the Dallas Stars.
He has spent three different spells with Texas over the course of the season, but is currently in the ECHL with the Idaho Steelheads — a level below the AHL.
He was recently joined by former Moose Jaw Warriors captain Jason Bast who signed a standard player contract with the Steelheads on March 12. Bast has five goals and 12 points in nine games since signing. He was previously playing CIS hockey with St. Francis Xavier.
Montgomery, who is six-foot-two and 215 pounds, has nine goals and 24 points in 44 games. The right winger plays a strong 200-foot game, but he was hoping to have more of an offensive impact in his rookie season.
"I haven't had a terrible season, but it hasn't been ideal," said Montgomery from Boise, Idaho. "I think I've been playing really well, but I haven't really been producing a lot of points. With this business there's a difference between playing well and playing well with points. You have to be able produce."
Even in the WHL Montgomery was known as more of a two-way player, though he didn't look out of place adding some size and grit on a scoring line. He scored 31 goals and had 48 points in 58 games in his final WHL season.
"I have been taking a lot of shots. I'm trying to get pucks on net every game, but it gets frustrating when you can't put them in," he said.
Teams in the ECHL only use three forward lines which muddies the more traditionally defined roles up front. In addition the revolving door at that level of hockey — the Steelheads have used 41 players this season — compounds the lack of structure on teams.
"They're pretty different leagues. In the American League you have four lines … and your third and fourth lines kind of grind it out and in the East Coast, you only have three lines and it eliminates that kind of grinding line. It's a lot more open and unstructured in the East Coast.
"You have more free rein to try to make plays. There's guys going in and out of the lineup all of the time – getting called up, sent down, new players all of the time. I think it's hard for a coach to keep a good structure."
It hasn't been easy for Montgomery to get settled this season either. He has yo-yo'd between the AHL and the ECHL.
Montgomery began the season in Texas and returned to the AHL team after Christmas. He thought he was headed to the ECHL for good a month later, but quickly returned for his third AHL stint.
"I drove back (to Idaho) with my vehicle because I was told I was going to stay here and after driving 28 hours, four days later they called me back (to Texas)," said Montgomery.
Chasing your dream isn't easy and Montgomery is trying to take the ups and downs in stride.
"I think this was a really good rookie season. It was eye-opening being sent down and up, being healthy scratched a lot of nights. I was in Texas for just under 30 games and I only played in six of them," said Montgomery who has no points and nine penalty minutes in the AHL this season. "I've had to learn to be able to deal with not being in the lineup.
"It's really been eye-opening seeing what I need to work on in the summer. Foot-speed is obviously something I need to key on. The biggest thing is that when I get the puck I need to move my feet."
He said the players weren't significantly faster in the AHL, but that the speed with which the puck moves and the tempo of the game was the biggest change he noticed.
"The biggest thing is how they move the puck up there. The puck is always moving," he said.
Montgomery's deal with Texas is for one year. While he may be playing for his next contract, he's not worrying about it. He's focused on hockey and said his agent will focus on getting him a deal before the end of the summer.
In the meantime, he has playoff hockey to look forward to.
The Steelheads are sitting in fourth place in the ECHL's Western Conference, a point behind Utah. If they standings hold they would meet the Colorado Eagles — the new home of former Warrior Jesse Forsberg.