As of December 25th, not many people knew the name Scott Wedgewood. That's not to say no one knew it—those who follow the OHL are familiar with the Plymouth Whalers' goaltender—but he wasn't exactly a household name. Actually, he's barely a household name in his own league.
Now? The name Wedgewood is known Canada-wide, and he could be the next hot-topic at this year's World Junior Championships.
Wedgewood stood on his head against the Czech Reupublic December 28th, earning Canada a 5-0 win and moving them to 2-0 at the tournament. The shutout also marked Canada's 5th against the Czech Republic in World Junior history, and if we want to look at this hockey season as a whole, it was Wedgewood's third of the season.
Success really hasn't eluded Wedgewood over his two seasons in the OHL as a starting goalie: He's a combined 41-23-3-2, and while the stats aren't as pristine this year, he finished last year in the top-ten in goals-against average and save percentage, and (combined with backup Matt Mahalak) has Plymouth battling for top spot in the Western Conference this year.
If you want to go back even farther, you can look at the last game of the 2009/10 playoffs for Plymouth, which was Wedgewood's coming out party. Down 3-0 in their second-round series against the Windsor Spitfires, Wedgewood was the default starter for Game Four after then-Whaler Matt Hackett was suspended for 3-games because he went blocker-first after Derek Lanoue. All Wedgewood did was take the Windsor Spitfires to overtime, and make 70 saves—yes, 70 saves—in a 3-2 loss.
But along with the successes have come the 'hardships' of playing for a team that the Ontario portion of the OHL ignores. Ask someone who the best goalie in the OHL is, and Dale Hunter will tell you it's Michael Houser. Kitchener can bring first-year revelation John Gibson to the table, and Ottawa boasts Petr Mrazek, but only the wise ones mention Wedgewood. Last year in their first-round series against the Rangers, no one thought the Whalers' goalie could steal a series against the third seed. But he did, dragging a frustrated Gabriel Landeskog, Jerry D'Amigo and Jason Akeson along for the ride.
The spring before, the 70-save performance against the Spits made Wedgewood famous…for about a week. Soon after everyone was talking about the 3-0 lead Kitchener had in the Western Conference Finals. Then it was the fact that the Spitfires came back to win the series. Then it was Windsor’s second consecutive Memorial Cup. Who was going to remember a little second-round elimination at the hands of the champs?
Before he even started that game Plymouth Coach Mike Vellucci, his biggest supporter, was completely behind Wedgewood, saying he had always given his team a chance to win in the 18 games he played that year. In fact, Vellucci hoped that Wedgewood’s start against Windsor would get him some attention from the NHL scouts.
It did, as Wedgewood became a third round selection of the New Jersey Devils, and the second goalie taken from the OHL (Mark Visentin was taken in the first round by Phoenix).
While the draft status may have been ‘average’ (Thomas McCollum—30th overall in 2008—and Visentin are the only OHL goalies to go in the first round since 2001), a team that knew a thing or two about goalies had chosen Wedgewood, which on it’s own merit should have had people talking about him. But it didn’t. Neither did the fact that this was about the time many began wondering who would take over for Martin Brodeur, a goalie Wedgewood idolized, whenever the all-time great retired. Few mentioned the recently drafted goalie, who was the first goalie New Jersey had selected in the entry draft in five years, on the 20th anniversary of Brodeur’s selection.
Fast-forward to today and we know a little more about Scott Wedgewood and what he brings to the table. We know that the starting goalie of the Plymouth Whalers they call ‘Money’ has vaulted himself into the upper-tier of OHL goalies, he brought a country to their feet with his 26-save shutout of the Czechs, and he may just be the answer when people ask ‘who’s up next for New Jersey once Broduer is done?’
We won’t know the answer to that last one for a few more years, but one thing is for sure: Scott Wedgewood is no longer the OHL’s best kept secret.