Color of Hockey: Montgomery showcased ahead of 2021 NHL Draft


William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past nine years. Douglas joined in March 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles Bryce Montgomery, a defenseman for London of the Ontario Hockey League who ranked No. 146 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft.

Bryce Montgomery was thrilled to make a surprise video announcing that his younger brother, Blake, was chosen by London in the ninth round (No. 176) of the 2021 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection draft, potentially making them teammates someday.

“It was really cool for me to announce Blake into the London family,” said Bryce, who signed with London in 2019. “It meant the world to me, and he’s really excited to be part of the organization now and I can’t wait to see where his path takes him.”

Bryce Montgomery can’t wait to learn more about his own path. He is No. 146 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters for the 2021 NHL Draft. The first round is July 23 (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW) with rounds 2-7 on July 24 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN NOW).

“It’s definitely been a lot the past few weeks with me traveling, Blake having his draft going on, and the upcoming NHL Draft,” he said. “I’m really humbled and grateful and I’d be grateful wherever I land.”

Montgomery (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) has barely been home in the months leading to the draft. He was on the road showcasing his skills because the OHL didn’t have a 2020-21 season due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

He traveled to Massachusetts in May to play 10 games in the Pandemic Hockey League, a four-team operation for players whose seasons were impacted by the pandemic.

Then it was off to Erie, Pennsylvania, later that month for 10 more games at the PBHH Invitational showcase, a six-team, two-week event organized by several OHL players to give players the opportunity to play in front of NHL scouts before the draft.

“That’s probably the most scouts I’ve ever played in front of, from NHL teams, ever,” Montgomery said. “These showcases, they were my season. That’s how important they were because I didn’t have a chance to have a regular season.”

A product of the Washington Little Caps and Team Maryland AAA programs and Cushing Academy prep school hockey, Montgomery had two assists in 33 games for London in 2019-20.

NHL Central Scouting’s Joey Tenute said the showcases should serve Montgomery well for the draft.

“He did some stuff that he needed to do to get seen, so he’s definitely on the radar,” Tenute said. “He’s a big defenseman that skates well. He’s got good range. He’s got good offensive instincts. He’s a guy that looks to jump up and join the rush and become that trailing option. It looks like he’s got a good shot. In the Erie tournament, he scored a couple of nice goals.”

Billy Sullivan, a London scout who first noticed Montgomery as a 6-foot, smooth-skating 13-year-old, said there’s still more upside to tap.

“He got great coaching his first year, but he was a rookie, and we were a very deep team,” Sullivan said. “This year, (2021-22) he’s really going to be given the ball a little bit. Where he’s going to be at the end of this year and at the end of four years is just going to be, in my opinion, is worlds away from where he is now.”

Montgomery comes from an athletic and historic background. His father, Matthew, was an All-American defenseman at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, an NCAA Division III school in Winona. He holds the university’s record for most goals by a defenseman in a season, 20 in 1988-89.

“My dad, he’s our rock,” Montgomery said. “He’s a hockey guy, a hockey guru. Ever since I was a little kid, he was like my personal coach.”

Montgomery’s mother, Kimberly Robinson, played basketball for the University of California-Berkeley. His grandmother, Debbie Montgomery, was a civil rights activist, the first female officer for the St. Paul, Minnesota, police department in 1975 and a founder of the Mariucci Inner City Hockey Starter Association in 1984. A St. Paul street bears her name.

Montgomery’s 16-year-old brother Blake, a forward, was selected in the OHL draft because of his skill and family hockey pedigree.

“His skill and hockey IQ are maybe even more so than where Bryce was, or at least in the same ballpark,” Sullivan said. “Bryce could do a little more because of his natural ability, but Blake really understands the game and he has great hands-on top of that.”

Blake Montgomery (6-foot-2, 165 pounds) said he’ll play for Seacoast Performance Academy in New Hampshire in 2020-21. He’s already learning the ropes of playing for London and the OHL from his big brother and potential future teammate.

“I’m learning from him off-ice discipline, managing my time better, because he’s very good with that, work ethic in general because he works very hard,” Blake said. “It’s awesome that he’s there. I know what to expect there.”

Photos: Matt Hiscox Photography

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