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When Scott Wedgewood dialed into the PHNX Coyotes podcast on Tuesday, he did so from an all-too-familiar place: a hotel room. In the past five years, Wedgewood has been with four NHL organizations and he has called eight cities home. Temporary housing has been a career constant.
“People know I’m a big video-game guy, so as long as the Wi-Fi works and I can FaceTime my parents and my wife, I’m good,” Wedgewood said. “I’ve got my golf clubs and that’s one of my favorite pastimes. I was able to play (Monday) on the off day so it’s great to just enjoy this weather year round.”
The Wi-Fi wasn’t working so well on Tuesday and there is no guarantee that Wedgewood will have the opportunity to golf in Arizona next month, let alone year round. When Carter Hutton returns from a lower-body injury and the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, the Coyotes will have three goalies in the Valley (Karel Vejmelka is the third), two prospects in Tucson (Ivan Prosvetov, Josef Kořenář) and another (David Tendeck) in the ECHL. Something will have to give and Wedgewood has often been that movable piece.
“I’m not trying to collect every jersey in the league. I would like to have a home base,” he said.
“As a kid, when you get in the league, you have all of these dreams and they pump you up like you’re supposed to take over and be the next (Martin) Brodeur, even though what he did was pretty much unreachable as a goalie. You want that dream. You want to make $50 million. You want to be the next big name but now that I’ve kind of bounced around I’ve kind of realized that if I just play well and put up a good effort every night, I have a chance to stay in this league.”
Through three weeks with the Coyotes, that is exactly what Wedgewood has done. Before a game against Edmonton on Wednesday, Wedgewood was 3-1-1 with a 2.04 goals against average and a .940 save percentage in six games. If you strip away his three games in New Jersey, his numbers would put him in the top 10 in the NHL in both categories, and he also sports a 3.0 goals saved above average which ranks 17th in the NHL, per Natural Stat Trick.
Of the 10 points that the Coyotes have collected, Wedgewood has been in goal for seven.
“I don’t want to explain it, I don’t want to talk about it,” coach André Tourigny said after Wedgewood led the Coyotes to their second win of the season on Nov. 16 in St. Louis. “I just want to ride the wave.”
It’s the same analogy that Wedgewood used last season in New Jersey when he had the opportunity to remain with the Devils for the entire season in his second go-round with the organization that drafted him in the third round (No. 84) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
Unfortunately for Wedgewood, the next wave carried him to Arizona. When the Devils activated Mackenzie Blackwood off of injured reserve on Nov. 3, New Jersey waived Wedgewood and the Coyotes claimed him. All he did upon his arrival was stop their franchise-record-tying 11-game winless streak to start the season — four seasons after he stopped the other one.
Here's a record that I think Scott Wedgewood will hold for all of eternity.
He is the only goalie in NHL history to snap two 11-game winless streaks to start a season with the same team.
Here's a record that I think Scott Wedgewood will hold for all of eternity.
“I just view it as another chance in the league,” Wedgewood said. “There have definitely been some chances to really sit and dwell on how things have gone for me, but I think I’ve done a good job of bouncing back and looking at the positives, or finding a way to just survive and then ride a lot of waves. I’ve been underwater. I’ve been over water. I just haven’t found a yacht to park myself on and sail away yet.”
Humble beginnings, humble expectations
Wedgewood began his youth hockey career as a defenseman. He didn’t convert to goalie until several years later, but that was still the role that his older brothers, Mark and Paul, chose for him in the family driveway, or on the small rink that Mike built in the backyard in Brampton, Ontario.
“He just stood there and they would shoot pucks and balls and whatever at him and then hoot and holler that they scored,” said Scott’s father, Mike. “Scott would come in crying, saying, ‘They hit me.’ So I’d put a little more equipment on him, try to patch him up with as much stuff as I could, and send him back out.
“Eventually, he got pissed off and started stopping his older brothers. He would not let them score and it was them who would come in crying, saying, ‘He won’t let us score.’ All I said was, ‘What do you want me to do about that? He’s challenging you.’”
When the Devils drafted Wedgewood after his second season with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers (now in Flint), he didn’t attend the NHL’s annual event because his agent, Jordan Neumann (who also represents Hutton), didn’t want him to be disappointed if he didn’t hear his name called in Los Angeles.
“My father’s side of the family has a family reunion every year, and it happened to be on that day,” Mike said. “We were halfway to the reunion and Scott got a call telling him that he got picked by New Jersey. Luckily, I was able to keep the car going straight, but we were all hooting and hollering. When we got to the family reunion, there were 120 family members there to celebrate with him.”
At the time, Lou Lamoriello was the Devils’ GM and David Conte was New Jersey’s director of scouting. As often happens in the NHL, however, the staff turned over. Lamoriello resigned as team president in 2015 to become the Maple Leafs GM, Conte departed, eventually to join the Vegas Golden Knights, and Ray Shero took over as New Jersey’s GM. In his first draft, Shero selected Blackwood in the second round and Wedgewood was no longer the heir apparent.
By the time the Coyotes acquired him for the first time in 2017, to fill in for injured goalie Antti Raanta, Wedgewood had only played four games with the Devils while bouncing between their ever-changing AHL affiliates. Even now, despite all of those seasons in the Devils’ system, he has already played more games with the Coyotes (26) than he played with the Devils (23).
The 2015-16 season is the only one in which he has played for an above-.500 NHL team.
“There were games that I stood on my head and I still gave up four goals, and there were games where I didn’t play that great,” he said. “To an extent, you’re a product of the situation you’re in but players can say the same thing.
“If you played with (Sidney) Crosby you might get an extra 40 points a year, and if you play with (Connor) McDavid, you might get an extra 60. That’s just the way it is, but I bring it back to me. It’s up to me to stop the puck as the last line of defense. If I play better, the team can win, so I take a lot of the blame regardless of the where and when.”
Wedgewood is 29. He is no longer a young goalie in NHL years, even if goaltenders tend to mature a little later than other positions. He knows that if he doesn’t cement his place in the league soon, his opportunities may cease
To that end, he rededicated himself to his craft over the past two summers in Plymouth, Michigan where he and his wife, Brittany, bought a house two doors down from his old billet family. Despite the knowledge that he culled from Devils goalie coach Dave Rogalski, and from Tampa Bay goalie coach Frantz Jean during the bubble season in which Wedgewood got a Stanley Cup ring with the Lightning, he still thought there were holes in his game. So he reached out to Michigan based goalie coach A.J. Walczak.
“He’s pretty cerebral and he understands the game very well,” Walczak said. “He was really confident in a lot of areas of his game, but he really wanted to clean up his post play; just being able to get into his post and out of his post effectively.
“Everyone talks about the RVH nowadays. I just don’t think he really trusted it so it was something that we dove into, day after day after day in different scenarios. I told him, ‘It’s not gonna happen in a day or week. This is going to be all summer of us focusing on these little details.’ He’s a very detail oriented person by nature so it just took off. It spiraled in a good way and he’s been playing pretty well.”
Wedgewood is still playing in his Devils gear, but it’s not a matter of superstition. It takes a significant amount of time to order new equipment once a player changes teams, and then to have that equipment customized to a player’s liking. Throw in the impact that COVID-19 has had on the world supply chain and you get the sort of delay that he is experiencing.
His Coyotes-themed pads should arrive soon with a design that he promises will please, but the mask he has ordered is still delayed because the mask maker has been ill so the form hasn’t yet been sent to renowned Swedish mask artist David Gunnarsson for painting.
Wedgewood hasn’t even settled on that design, but Gunnarsson is looking forward to crafting another piece of art for his longtime client.
“We have been working together for seven years,” Gunnarsson said. “I love to work with Scott. A mask I truly remember we did together was the Puddy mask, Puddy from “Seinfeld.” Puddy himself loved it.”
The actor who played David Puddy, Patrick Warburton, has an exact replica of one of the Puddy mask’s incarnations.
That fact is a source of pride and amusement for Wedgewood, but he would rather be known for his play than his goalie art.
“When you look around the league, I don’t want to say I’m envious, but you look at other guys in the league that get put into good situations and games where they’re winning and you think, ‘I can do that, I can make that save, I can do exactly what he did and walk away with a shutout,’” he said. “You’re just hoping for that opportunity. You’re just hoping for a legitimate chance and now I’ve got one.
“Until I get that phone call that either tells me I’m being moved again, or they’re not going to re-sign me and I have to think about what’s next, I’d love to stick around and definitely make some long-term friendships and have a bit more of a home base for a while. It’s been a lot of moving parts in my life. Some stability would definitely help.”
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