Now that the OHL season has been running for the first time since March 2020, I can create this profile. Bryce Montgomery was a player I had on my profile list when dealing with some of the other members of the 2021 Draft class, but there was no movie available in his draft year as the OHL was not in season. Now we are three games in Montgomery’s season and I am ready to give you all of my analysis on the Hurricanes pick in the sixth round (170th overall).
Size and strength
What strikes Montgomery from the first second you see him play is how imposing he is on the ice. Montgomery weighs 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds, which makes him one of the tallest and strongest OHL skaters at age 18. This size gives him an advantage in the defensive zone, allowing Montgomery to cover a larger area with his stick, getting into the firing and overtaking lane more easily, and covering distances quickly.
He can use his strength to knock players off the puck and win fights in front of the net, denying any chance of rebound. Teams long to have a great defender who can take down the opposition, and Montgomery could be that player. I’ll talk more about Montgomery’s defense a little later. First I have to talk about his skating.
We heard Hurricane’s assistant GM Darren Yorke said that to play in today’s NHL, a defender must be able to play at pace and move the puck. Montgomery plays with a lot of speed and with a little development will also be able to move the puck confidently. I believe Montgomery’s skating is a strength that is rare for a defender of his size. Most great defenders are below average to average by age 18, but Montgomery skates with the poise and confidence of a veteran. His top speed is above average, he can take quick turns with and without a puck on his stick and he can skate backwards with ease.
I would say Montgomery makes skating look effortless at times, with a gentle step and a calm demeanor. There is something to be said of a player with very little panic in their game. Any defense needs that stabilizing force at the back, as we’ve seen with players like Jaccob Slavin and Ian Cole on this year’s Hurricanes team. Montgomery’s heavy skating allows for better gap control and seals the plays along the boards before they develop into a legitimate goal scoring opportunity.
As it evolves, Montgomery will be able to run more controlled breakouts and even join the onslaught on occasion. He shows a lot of promise as a player who will get the puck out no matter what the circumstances, and when there is a turnover on his own side he can react and recover quickly enough to prevent a chance. Once Montgomery reaches a level where he is not an anomaly in terms of size and strength, his skating will be the trait that will stand out from other players of his size.
Montgomery plays shutdown style at home and relies heavily on penalty shoot-outs. Do you have a five-minute major to kill? Montgomery can help you prevent any type of crime. One of your top defenders is out? That’s fine, Montgomery can step in and take some extra PK Ice Age. Montgomery is used for London in all defensive situations and should be one of the top four defenders for the remainder of his time in the OHL due to his strong defensive play.
You don’t want to notice a downed defender because usually it’s because they did something wrong. Montgomery isn’t going to make these spectacular games like Jaccob Slavin just yet, but he’s going to make the right game. He’ll put his stick in a fast lane, block a shot, interrupt a weird onslaught, and so on. There is potential for those brilliant moments that we see from defenders like Slavin and Pesce based on Montgomery’s skating and hockey sense, but right now it’s good to see Montgomery making the easy moves and doing a good job.
Part of what makes Montgomery such a tough player on the ice is his flair for hockey and his ability to track the puck and know where a pass is going next. He can read a game and know when the attacking player will pass and then strike at the right time to create a turnover and kill an offensive onslaught for the opponent. Those plays make it hard for teams to get past Montgomery, and when you add the size and skating you get a player who is a wall on defense. That kind of defensive zone skill could bring Montgomery to the NHL.
Areas for improvement
No prospect is perfect and very few picks for the sixth round are complete players. The same goes for Montgomery. The defensive side of his game is solid and will continue to improve as the season progresses, but the offensive side of his game is lacking. There is very little offensive advantage in his play and you are likely seeing a shutdown-only defender moving forward. I’m talking between 10-20 points per season maximum at the NHL level.
That’s not to say he’s a bad offensive player, it’s just not how he’s used in the London system. And who can blame them? You have a strong defender who can kill penalty kicks and who effectively plays five on five. Why give him a lot of offensive zone starts? Montgomery could surprise me over the next few seasons and become a more confident passer-by and shooter on offense, but for now he’s sticking to what he does best.
Montgomery’s breakouts are in the works and I’ve seen more good than bad this season. At the Prospects Showcase, I noticed Montgomery occasionally yielding under pressure with the puck on his stick and turning the puck on its own end, resulting in increased zone time for the Hurricanes. I saw less of that in Montgomery’s first three games this season against London, which is to be expected. After over a year without OHL ice hockey, there has always been an adjustment period and I believe Montgomery will improve its breakout passes as the year progresses.
After all, I’d like to see a little more physicality from Montgomery. He has a very active bat and defends well with it, but at times he could play with the body to knock a player off the puck or remove a player from the goalkeeper’s sight. There are times when I’ll see Montgomery play some physical play, but I’d love to see a little more of him, especially in puck fights.
Projection and summary
Montgomery is going to take time to develop like most late round picks do. It’s likely he’s five or more years away from the NHL, but if he does make it to the NHL, you’ll be looking for a reliable defender in the third pairing who can kill penalty kicks. Anything higher than the third pairing would be wonderful, but I believe Montgomery will have a role similar to Ian Cole’s current role with the Hurricanes if he makes it to the NHL. However, that is a long time and there is a lot of development that has to happen between now and then. Montgomery is in a good place and will partner with some of the best development teams in the league.
From the games I’ve seen it’s clear what the Hurricanes are seeing in Montgomery. You see a great defender with strong skating skills and the potential to become a top shutdown player. Prospect development doesn’t happen overnight, and very few prospects succeed in the NHL immediately after drafting. It’s a long way to go for most prospects, as we’ve seen over the years with players like Steven Lorentz, Haydn Fleury and many others.
It’s a long and difficult road, but with the right development and growth, Montgomery can make it to the NHL and become a Carolina Hurricane. I spoke to a scout about his perspective on Montgomery. What he notices:
â€œWhat I notice about Bryce’s game, besides its size, is its balance. His patience under pressure with the puck is something that many players lack, let alone have, while he is six feet tall and a strong skater. It can get him into trouble sometimes if he holds it too long, yes, but that’s what he’s working on in London. “
Possible comparisons for Montgomery:
Comparisons are always difficult, but I can see Bryce’s game being compared to players like Tyler Myers or Erik Johnson. This is not an easy task as they are both in the top 15 NHL draft Picks, but I think if Bryce reaches his potential he could have such an impact from the blueline.
What may be a little underestimated about Bryce in public scouting:
Every year when I see Bryce his mistakes on the ice become fewer and fewer, every year he seems to find out a little more about what his game is and what he has to do to make his team successful and successful himself be . And if he continues to play a smart brand of hockey with his physique, ice skating, and posture, his cap could be very high.
The Hurricanes scouts saw a player in the Erie Showcase and decided they wanted him on their system, even though he hadn’t played in many games during his draft year. It’s a tremendous vote of confidence in Montgomery and it shows you just how high the Hurricanes stand on it. It’ll be a slow cook in terms of development for Montgomery, but that choice could pay off well later.