By Erica Whyte
With the Rochester Americans 63rd season just hours away from puck-drop, many off-season questions have been answered. Yes, Kevin Porter will serve as captain for the second year in a row. Yes, fan-favorites Alexander Nylander, Brendan Guhle and Justin Bailey will all begin the season here. And yes, the Amerks will continue to call The Blue Cross Arena home. Yet despite all those answers, there remains one more big question: Who is Scott Wedgewood?
After signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Buffalo Sabres in July, the 26-year-old netminder was projected to be the Amerks new starting goalie shoe-in. And with Linus Ullmark’s promotion to the Sabres following two solid years playing record minutes, two AHL All-Star appearances and back-to-back team MVP awards with the Amerks, those ‘shoes' are pretty darn big.
“He’s a smart goaltender with a high level of drive to battle and compete” said Buffalo Sabres goaltending development coach Seamus Kotyk of the New Jersey Devils’ 2010 third-round pick. “He’s very intelligent, he’s thought-out, mature, professional. He’s not a predictable goalie.”
An unpredictable goalie whose last few years have been anything but predictable. After just over four years of good health playing with the New Jersey Devils organization and more than 100 hundred AHL games, the 6-foot-2 Etobicoke, Ontario, native suffered a series of injuries which barred him from playing for almost one full year.
WATCH: WEDGEWOOD AFTER SUNDAY'S PRESEASON GAME
Then at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, Wedgewood played one game with the Binghamton Devils before getting traded not once, but twice. New Jersey dealt him to Arizona, where he played in 20 games for the Coyotes, and from there Arizona shipped him off to Los Angeles before ultimately being reassigned to their AHL affiliate in Ontario.
Back to full health and feeling better than ever, Wedgewood’s top priority in contract talks this summer was making sure he landed somewhere that would give him major minutes between the pipes.
“I’ve played in maybe 26 hockey games in two and a half years, so that’s been the hardest thing for me,” said the net minder of his battles with injuries. “With playing, you get comfortable when you get in the net more, so that was my biggest thing in negotiations. I want a chance to play.”
He added, "I wanted to go somewhere with an opportunity to play a lot to get my game back.”
Opportunity came knocking with Ullmark’s graduation to the Sabres, leaving the Amerks starting goalie position vacant. And although both goaltenders are technically competing for the same job as the Sabres starting goalie, one of the first players that reached out to Wedgewood when he signed in July was, in fact, Ullmark.
“Ullmark reached out to me when I signed, and said welcome, which was really nice,” said Wedgewood. “He said if I need anything (in Rochester), he knows the area.”
Heading into this season, Ullmark isn’t the only Amerks player Wedgewood is acquainted with.
“Kevin Porter and Zach Redmond I’ve known for a while,” he said of the veteran leaders who all spend their off-season within 30 minutes of each other in Michigan. “Tyler Randell and I grew up together and Andrew MacWilliam and I played with in Albany.”
Although those Amerks are the only ones Wedgewood knew coming into his time in Rochester, the charismatic and chatty guy is looking to embrace the family-like feeling that this squad exemplified last year.
“If you can know things outside of just 'he’s a right-handed shot and he wears CCM skates,' it’s a lot nicer,” said Wedgewood of the importance of a tight-knit locker room. “It’s a family and we’re in this together. You win and lose as a team, you get better as a team. It’s important for everybody.”
And fans have the chance to see for themselves how Wedgewood fits into the Amerks family in just a few hours. Tickets are available for tonight’s game, and every game, at Amerks.com.