|Scottie Upshall |
General Manager Don Maloney acquired the sixth overall pick of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft just before last season’s trade deadline in March in an effort to give the Coyotes an added boost on offense. Upshall likes to play an aggressive style of hockey that some teammates find infectious.
“He’s a guy that shoots the puck hard,” Maloney said. “And the one thing with Scottie Upshall is that he’s willing to pay a price to score. That means going into hard areas around the net.”
Upshall has scored a team-high seven goals in the team’s first 25 games this season. He also scored eight goals and had 13 points in the final 19 games of last season after being acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers, along with a second-round choice in the 2011 Entry Draft, in exchange for forward Daniel Carcillo.
Upshall entered this season with 230 career NHL games under his belt, and in those games he tallied 46 goals and 60 assists for 106 points and 223 penalty minutes.
Upshall is pleased he was able to help his new team get off to one of its better starts. In October, the Coyotes tied a franchise record by winning nine games.
“Things have been good,” said Upshall, a native of Fort McMurray, Alberta. “We’re all excited at the opportunity here this year. We’ve got some great guys in the dressing room, a lot of good character and we’ve really emphasized being a good team and a strong pack, and so far we’re off to a pretty good start. We’ve just got to continue to move forward.”
Like Upshall, Coyotes center Matthew Lombardi also was acquired in a trade-deadline deal last March. They’re usually linemates.
“We got here at the same time, so we’ve been playing together pretty much since Day One,” Lombardi said. “We just kind of clicked… I guess you can say we’ve created some chemistry on the ice. I think we complement each other well. He’s got great speed and a great shot; I’m just trying to get him the puck in the right place.”
Upshall likes playing on a line with Lombardi.
“For a guy who is still young, he’s had a great career,” Upshall said. “… He creates a lot of things out there with his speed and his skill.”
Upshall’s aggressive style of play got him into some penalty trouble early this season. Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett benched him for a game to send a message to the team about playing undisciplined hockey.
There’s definitely a fine line between being aggressive and playing without controlled emotion,” Upshall said. “For me, I got into a little penalty trouble earlier in the year and had some time to reflect on it. We’re a team where we can’t have guys on their own page taking penalties. I’m a guy who has to lead by example and continue with my hard work, but keep it between the whistles and control my aggression out there.”
Tippett said Upshall would be a key player for the Coyotes as long as he stays out of penalty trouble.
“He’s got to play hard and play with energy, but not overdo it, where he puts himself in trouble,” Tippett said.
Maloney also believes that Upshall has the potential to be a very productive player.
“He’s a high-energy, exciting player to watch, and sometimes that enthusiasm carries him over the line, which we’ve seen a little bit early here with a couple, maybe too many penalties,” Maloney said. “But overall, he’s come in and given us that real proactive game; real hard on the forecheck, quick to the net, finishes checks hard, all the good things you like, and that’s the reason why we brought him here.”
Upshall said he’s happy in Phoenix and enjoys being part of a dressing room that has good chemistry.
“What we have in here is a great mix of young guys with a lot of skill and a good future ahead,” Upshall said. “And then you combine it with some great leadership. We’ve got guys in here who have been in the Olympics, guys that have had great careers, and they’re strong leaders and that helps everyone. It’s been just a strong group.”
Maloney thinks Upshall could be poised to have a career year in goal scoring.
“I think he’s just starting to have a real nice stretch in his career right now,” Maloney said. “This coaching staff will be good for him. They will make him a little more aware without the puck.”