Nine years ago, a very athletic defenseman in Brampton, Ontario was asked to play goalie because his dad’s summer hockey team’s goaltenders had left for a couple of weeks vacation. He had played some goal before but this was different. He would be strapping on the pads on a consistent basis, so he decided to just have fun with it and see what he could do.
Seven years later, at 17, Scott Wedgewood would be drafted in the 3rd round (84th overall) by the New Jersey Devils. At the time, he was a backup goaltender for the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers. His biggest moment up to that point was a 70-save performance against Windsor in the OHL playoffs, a game which showed his extraordinary athleticism and untapped potential.
New Jersey Devils General Manager guru Lou Lamoriello saw Wedgewood as a goaltender who had unlimited upside; he just needed more time to develop and gain valuable exposure. Wedgewood’s ability was there. He had a strong work effort and seemed to gain confidence and raise his play when facing adversity. Lamoriello just needed Wedgewood to get the right opportunities and he would have found a pocket ace.
Lamoriello knows you don’t just replace the best player in the history of the franchise. Martin Brodeur is considered by many to be the best goaltender ever (and his statistics certainly back it up). But he will retire at some point, and someone will need to take up his mantle as the Devils’ starting goaltender for the foreseeable future. I spoke with Wedgewood last Thursday after practice at the Devils rookie camp, and we discussed everything from the first coach to fully believe in his ability to make it as a professional to his stylistic similarities to Marty with his stickhandling and outlet passes outside the paint.
Q: How big was making the Canadian World Junior Team? How big of an experience was that for you?
A: Up to this point, as far as nationally playing hockey for Canada, I was not the number one guy in my age group. I was known as a guy who could play pretty well and steal a game. I got my first big opportunity when I got invited to the Subway Series (OHL All-Star team) against Russia. It was a great experience being on the World Junior team: the quality of hockey, the media presence, the challenge of getting the gold medal. It was a big mental experience. I think that, although it was challenging with our loss to Russia, I was able to move forward and prepare for what’s to come.
Q: Against Windsor in the 2010 playoffs, you had a 70-save performance in a 3-2 overtime loss. What on earth was that like?
A: Well, I love to play under pressure. I love the mental challenge. Going to Team Canada, I felt motivationally that the more pressure I put on myself the better I play. N.J. plays a great defensive game where they allow fewer shots, like only 20 to 30. It is something I need to prepare for. That 73-shot game sort of put me on the map. It was what got me drafted, despite at that time my being a backup goalie. In that game against Windsor, they just kept bringing pressure from all sides. The shot disparity of the third period was 27-3. The adrenaline of trying to survive and keep your team alive had me feeling no fatigue. I just wanted to give it everything I had for my team and keep them off the scoreboard.