NEWARK — Coming off the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, Scott Wedgewood is hoping the 2016-17 season will be less of a rollercoaster ride.
One year ago, Wedgewood entered training camp as the bona fide, number one goaltender for the AHL Devils. He was expected to carry the load for Albany and be on call if either Cory Schneider or Keith Kinkaid went down with injury.
However before the regular season even started, Wedgewood was sidelined with a groin injury that kept him out until December. In the meantime, Yann Danis stepped in and had an All-Star season and was recalled by New Jersey several times during the year.
When Wedgewood returned to Albany’s lineup he was stellar, going 6-2-2 during the next two months.
Then back on the self; this time a shoulder injury took the now 24-year-old off the ice.
“First time I went through an injury like that,” Wedgewood said. “I came back, played well and we had a good team then another injury. I had a little bit of a tough time with it to start. You want to be in there, you want to play and you want to help your team out.”
When he returned, he went 8-1-1 and led Albany into the Calder Cup playoffs. He also made his NHL debut on Mar. 20 against Columbus, earning a 28-save victory. Days later he posted his first career shutout, making 39 saves at Pittsburgh. In four NHL games, he went 2-1-1 with a 1.25 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage.
This season, Wedgewood enters training camp as the third goaltender on the depth chart. Cory Schneider has established himself as one of the top netminders in the NHL and Keith Kinkaid, a former Albany Devils, is a strong backup.
Being on the outside looking in is just motivation for Wedgewood.
“My mentality since day one when I started the sport was that I want to play [in the NHL],” Wedgewood said. “It’s something I want to keep striving towards and show them that I belong here. I’m not coming in cocky and I’m not coming in underestimating myself. I’m just going to stick to my game, focus on myself, show them what I got and make the decision harder for them. ”
“Like any player, we want to see improvements, maturity and development from one year to the next,” said Albany Devils Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “So I think that’s the next step for him. I think he can feel comfortable fighting for a job and be confident knowing he can play at the NHL level. He just has to take it a day at a time.”
If Wedgewood is assigned to Albany, he will be in a new role. For the past two seasons, he has shared responsibility with veteran netminders Scott Clemmensen (now a member of the team’s development staff) and Danis. This year, he will be the elder statesmen with 21-year-old Ken Appleby and 19-year-old Mackenzie Blackwood completing the organization’s professional goaltending makeup.
Wedgewood will be extremely important in both young netminder’s development.
“I don’t feel like I’m old and I don’t feel like I have to be in a super veteran role,” Wedgewood said. “I’ve obviously had a little more experience. I’m a talkative guy, I’m out going and I’m social and I’m very approachable, so I think that will help them.”
If Wedgewood ends up in the AHL and if his numbers from last year are any indication, Albany’s biggest strength could be between the pipes. In 2015-16, the Brampton, ON native went 14-3-2 with a 1.55 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.
Kowalsky: “There is no question that for Wedgewood the next step for him is a full season where he consistently demands being the number one guy and not because he has more experience.”