DU hockey Head Coach Jim Montgomery’s services are in high demand in the hockey world, as the Pioneers’ bench boss is set to interview with the NHL’s Florida Panthers. After leading DU to the program’s eighth national championship in only his fourth season behind the bench, Montgomery’s winning pedigree is attracting professional-level attention.
It’s very rare that NCAA head coaches make the jump to the same position in the NHL, as it has only occurred three times before. After winning two championships in the USHL with the Dubuque Fighting Saints and one in the NCAA with DU, Montgomery has the rare resume to do so.
“In life there are only so many opportunities, and you have to listen,” Montgomery told the Denver Post. “But it’s going to have to take the perfect situation for me to leave Denver. There is no indication from Florida that I’m their No. 1 guy — or No. 2 or No. 3 guy. I’m just going to sit and talk with them.”
Despite Montgomery signing a new five year contract with the Pioneers last summer, the pact includes an NHL “out” clause which frees the coach to pursue NHL level jobs.
The 2016-17 DU roster featured two Panthers prospects in first-round freshman center Henrik Borgstrom (Helsinki, Finland) and fifth-round senior goaltender Evan Cowley (Evergreen). If Montgomery accepted the Panthers job, or any other position outside of DU, Borgstrom and several other teammates would be hard-pressed to consider turning pro this offseason.
Sophomore talents Dylan Gambrell (Bonney Lake, Washington) and Troy Terry (Highlands Ranch) would be prime candidates to sign entry-level contracts with the NHL clubs that own their rights. Gambrell was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the second round, while Terry was selected in the fifth round by the Anaheim Ducks.
There may be no better time for Montgomery to capitalize on his coaching successes and advance to the NHL ranks after building the Pioneers into champions once again. However, the domino effect surrounding current players and prospective recruits alike, along with the absence of the program’s leader in Montgomery, would be a devastating blow.