Before coming to the Coyotes in a trade on March 4, forward Scottie Upshall never played the role of a go-to veteran in an NHL dressing room. Suddenly, he’s filling that role with Phoenix.
Upshall joined the league as a rookie with the Nashville Predators in the 2002-03 season, then was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2006-07 season where he was one of the younger players on the team.
“I have played with good veteran guys that have taught me the way the game is supposed to be played and what it takes to be a good pro,” said Upshall, who has played 219 NHL games. “In this dressing room, I have a chance to be a leader and show the young guys what it takes to focus and make the little plays that win games.”
Acquired from the Flyers in exchange for feisty forward Daniel Carcillo, Upshall, 25, sees a team that is just a short step from returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
“I see good leadership in the veteran guys we have,” said Upshall, who is a native of Fort Mcmurray, Alberta. “When you mix in this good, skilled, speedy type of offense that I see here in this dressing room, I see this team going places in the near future.”
Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney spent a lot of time scouting the Flyers this season and often had his eye on Upshall.
“Scottie is a guy with good speed, plays hard, and he can score,” Maloney said. “He will provide us with some energy and we expect him to play well and contribute here.”
Matthew Lombardi, who was also acquired at the trade deadline from Calgary, has played with Upshall since both came to Phoenix and he has been impressed by Upshall’s strong work ethic.
He works real hard and plays real hard every night. I think he is a really good all-around player. He can contribute at both ends of the rink so it’s enjoyable playing with him." - Matthew Lombardi
“He works real hard and plays real hard every night,” said Lombardi, who is in his fifth NHL season. “I think he is a really good all-around player. He can contribute at both ends of the rink so it’s enjoyable playing with him.”
In his short time with Phoenix, Upshall has seen a dramatic increase in ice-time and responsibility.
“I was playing 12-14 minutes a night in Philly,” said Upshall, who averaged more than 18 minutes per match in his first eight games with the Coyotes. “I was really focusing on making smart plays and being a good two-way player. Here, as much as you want to keep the energy up at that level, when you get more minutes, you just want to be a responsible player. You want to make things happen.”
Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky has liked what he has seen from the sixth overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
“I think he has been outstanding from the first game,” Gretzky said. “He plays with a great deal of energy, doesn’t cheat the game, plays hard and he wants to get better. I am really happy with how he has played.”
Upshall, who will become a restricted free agent after the season, is trying to impress the coaching staff.
“Wayne (Gretzky) has given me a lot of opportunity,” Upshall said. “I just try to go out every night and work hard and make things happen and play well with my linemates. I want to show the coaching staff that I can be a reliable player and someone that can be accountable out on the ice for my play. It’s a stride I am trying to make here.”
Spoken like a true veteran.