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Victoria's Howes tries to get best from teammates

Tuesday, 12.01.2009 / 11:30 AM / Prospects

By Lindsay Kramer - NHL.com Correspondent

"Scott is a really likeable guy. But when he's on the ice, guys know he has an edge. He's just trying to go out there and wake guys up." -- Adam Taylor on Scott Howes

Losing is hard on the Victoria Salmon Kings. Forward Scott Howes makes sure of that.

Howes is one of those many players who gets grumpy when things aren't going well, but he's one of the few who takes it upon himself to do something about it.

In practices, he's been known to get his point across by exchanging a cross check or two, or maybe give a teammate a pointed push after the whistle.

You got a problem with that? How about taking it out on an opponent.

"We're not doing that well. The way I've been taught is the only way to get better is (through) work ethic," said Howes, 22. "At times I feel guys could work harder, especially in the situation we're in. If they are going to get angry at me for doing that, I know they are going to work hard against me, and we’re both working hard."

Lots of guys talk. The thing about Howes is that he's the type of player who brings more to the rink than just preachiness. His words carry heft because of his production, not just his edginess.
The second-year pro has hands like a vise and a reach that seemingly extends from one side of the rink to the other. It'd be easier to hip check a Zamboni off the ice than to knock the 6-foot, 190-pound Howes off the puck. And when he grabs the biscuit he knows what to do with it - he chipped in 5 goals and 4 assists through his first 16 games.

"To me, he looks like a guy who has the American League in his sights," said Victoria coach Mark Morrison. "From when he gets the puck there's a little jump that separates him. He has the possibility where he should be a point a game guy. He is creative. With confidence, you are going to see it coming out more."

Victoria began the week with 13 points, tied for the fewest in the ECHL. Underachieving by others grates on Howes so much because he's had to prove himself virtually every step of his hockey career. Growing up in Toronto, he was cut from a handful of junior teams and never got drafted into the OHL.

He gave the QMJHL a shot, and made Drummondville as a walk-on. His first season there he announced his arrival with 25 goals and 17 assists in 47 games in 2006-07. The next year he was traded to Saint John, and went 42-28 in 59 games.

"I'm a pretty easy-going person. In a hockey sense, I'm a competitive guy," he said. "I do expect myself to succeed more than other people thought I would. My hockey instinct is to just drive."

Howes admits that used to get the best of him, which is one reason he seldom stood out for the right reasons as a young player Competitiveness is one thing; that's a prerequisite for being a pro. Howes said he had to learn how to steer his sense of urgency away from frustration penalties and rushed plays and toward intense, intelligent decisions.

"I wasn't a bad person, a bad kid," Howes said. "I didn't think a lot before doing things. Whatever happened, happened. You get to juniors, you are not only hurting your team (with bad decisions), you are hurting yourself. The more difficult you make it on yourself, no one is going to help you."

Howes continued to prove himself as a player worthy of attention last season, when he contributed 10 goals and 12 assists in 39 games as a rookie in Victoria. He also played five games in Manitoba, where he quickly picked up one of the more telling nicknames in the minors.

Howes has a 6-foot-1 wingspan, a trait someone with the Moose thought should earn him the moniker "Clyde." As in, Clyde the orangutan, from the Clint Eastwood movie "Every Which Way But Loose."

"Here (in Victoria), it's just joke after joke. You laugh about it," Howes said. "You can't help it. It's beneficial at time, for sure."

If Howes is riding on a small airplane he can sit in his seat and scrape the bottom of the overhead compartment with his fingertips. But that's just a party trick. There are a lot more hockey-wise applications to his lankiness.

When Howes is in a group of players lunging for a puck along the boards, you'd be wise to bet on him as the one who makes a play on it. Morrison marvels at how his player has the reach and leverage to lift the stick of almost any opponent, yet rarely gets pilfered himself.
"To me, he looks like a guy who has the American League in his sights. From when he gets the puck there's a little jump that separates him. He has the possibility where he should be a point a game guy. He is creative. With confidence, you are going to see it coming out more." -- Mark Morrison
He should be 7-foot-5, but he's really only 6-foot," said Victoria forward Adam Taylor.

"I think it comes down to I hate losing the puck," Howes said. "As long as I shield the puck properly with my body, no one is going to get the puck."

When frustrated teammates try to go after and rattle Howes in practice, even if that leads to the occasional stare down or flare up, everyone's game is sharpened. Which is a strategy that the smart Salmon Kings appreciate.

"Scott is a really likeable guy. But when he's on the ice, guys know he has an edge," Taylor said. "He's just trying to go out there and wake guys up."

If the rest of the Salmon Kings eventually open their eyes and start winning more, they'd be advised to remain on alert. Success won't put a drag on Howes' work habits. It will only make his mood lighter when he delivers his messages.

"I don't want to go into a game not being prepared," he said. "Maybe when I hit them after the whistle, maybe I'll have a smile on my face instead of an angry look."


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— Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa after scoring his 1,000th career point on Thursday night in Ottawa
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