Rated the No. 1 North American goaltending prospect for the NHL
Entry Draft, Al Montoya may decide to forego his final two years of
college hockey.

Ice Hockey
Michigan sophomore goalie Al Montoya is expected to be the first goalie taken in the June 26 NHL Entry Draft. He will then decide whether to stay in Ann Arbor or move on to the NHL. (RYAN WEINER/Daily)

Depending on which team drafts him and what he is advised to do,
the Michigan hockey team may be forced to take the ice this fall
without its most valuable player.

But until Montoya is selected on June 26 — possibly as
high as a top five pick — he’s choosing not to look
ahead.

“Right now, I’m coming back,” Montoya said
last week. “I love school and everything. But I’ll take
it day-by-day. You have to get drafted and then worry about where
the draft leads you.”

Montoya named the Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers and New York
Rangers as teams he could fit in with particularly well. He
recently returned from the NHL Combine, where he was interviewed by
19 different teams and underwent a dizzying array of tests.

“(The Combine) was crazy,” Montoya said. “I
think it was more to see what the player is like off the ice, to
put a name with a face. It was about getting to know you as a
person. The teams want to see who you actually are deep
down.”

At the same time, Montoya knows he is not a lock to be one of
the first few names announced in Raleigh.

“Some teams have questions about taking goalies
high,” Montoya said. “It takes longer for goalies to
develop. Other teams will take the best player available. I think
it’s a bigger deal which team you fall to (than where
you’re drafted). To go in the first round would be a huge
accomplishment with all the great goaltenders we’ve had (at
Michigan).”

Michigan associate head coach Mel Pearson wants Montoya back for
his junior season, but he and head coach Red Berenson are ready for
any situation.

“At this point, nothing would surprise me,” Pearson
said. “All these advisors are trying to get to these kids,
and (the players) don’t always hear your side of it.
Seventeen of the 19 teams Al talked to at the Combine thought he
should move on (to the NHL). But they don’t care about his
maturity or his education. All they’re looking at is the
athletic product.

“Hopefully he knows the situation with the team and his
role on the team. He is the guy. But we have a Plan B and a Plan C
and a Plan D. We’re not naïve enough to say Al’s
going to come back because we want him to.”

Michigan’s backup goalies last year were sophomore Noah
Ruden and freshman Mike Mayhew. The duo combined to play in just
nine games. Michigan also could attempt to bring in a recruit to
replace Montoya.

No matter what happens in the draft, Montoya believes his
mindset and motivation will not be affected.

“I expect a lot of myself,” he said. “I
don’t accept anything less than 110 percent. When I get
drafted, I’m not just competing against college goalies
anymore. I’m competing to someday battle (starting NHL
goalies). I can’t just sit around.”

While his status as Michigan’s goalie is in limbo, Montoya
is dedicated to graduating either in two years as a collegiate
athlete or further down the road as he embarks on an NHL
career.

“School has been great,” Montoya said. “I want
to get my education. I will get my degree. (But) the final decision
comes down to me, my family and my coaches.”

With Montoya’s future up in the air, Berenson and his team
may want to start thinking about plans B, C and D.

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