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World Juniors

Scott driven to start in goal for Canada in World Juniors after AHL stint

Maple Leafs prospect hopes to build on mentoring from Sparks, Pickard

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

VICTORIA, British Columbia -- Ian Scott had a Friday to remember.

It started with the goalie signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the morning and ended with the 19-year-old making Canada's final roster for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in the evening.

 

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"Pretty exciting," said Scott, who was picked by Toronto in the fourth round (No. 110) of the 2017 NHL Draft. "Even during camp when I knew (the contract) was going on it was still exciting and just a little thing behind the scenes that helps the confidence."

As exciting as Friday was, Scott has bigger goals for the WJC, which runs Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

"I came into this camp thinking I can be No. 1," Scott said.

Scott will compete with Michael Dipietro (Vancouver Canucks) for the starting job after Canada sent Matthew Villalta (Los Angeles Kings) back to Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League late Friday.

Tweet from @MapleLeafs: .@SportChek Player Alert: @MapleLeafs sign goaltender Ian Scott to a three-year entry-level contract.Details >> https://t.co/12bzpmRjRF#LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/3wPvnVsCDX

Scott wasn't invited to the World Junior Summer Showcase but built his case to be on Canada's team with an exceptional first half for Prince Albert in the Western Hockey League. He is 23-2-1 and leads the WHL with a 1.61 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and four shutouts. He even scored an empty net goal on Nov. 16.

"The season we are having definitely put me on the radar again," Scott said. "This was always a goal of mine, not being invited to summer camp made me push harder."

Scott began building his confidence after getting called up to Toronto of the American Hockey League late last season. He won his professional debut on April 15, making 30 saves in a 4-2 win over Belleville, and soaked in the experience of Toronto's run to the 2018 Calder Cup championship as the practice goalie.

Scott keeps in touch with the goalies from that playoff run, Maple Leafs backup Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard of the Arizona Coyotes, and believes the experience will help at the elite under-20 international WJC tournament.

"Having it go all the way like that you learn things throughout playoff runs," Scott said. "They have ups and downs and I was able to watch that and see how they dealt with it and what it took to overcome that."

Scott's ability to handle the puck like a third defenseman should also complement Canada and its plan to play an up-tempo game that starts with quick transitions out of their own end. It's come in handy on nights when Scott isn't overly busy behind a Prince Albert team that has three losses in 33 games (30-2-1) and is ranked atop the CHL.

"It's just about always being ready for the next shot, making sure I am talking to my D, stay attached to the game vocally and getting out to handle pucks," Scott said. "You are going to have games where you face a lot of shots and maybe steal a game, and games where you are not getting a lot of work and you just have to stay mentally focused the whole time. I think that's a skill I have and it will help."

Scott credits goaltending coach Piero Greco, who took the New York Islanders goaltending coach job over the summer, for helping improve his game during that AHL playoff run with Toronto. They focused on quieting Scott's movements and making sure he doesn't shrink his 6-foot-3 frame and make himself small in the crease.

"I am a lot calmer in the net, a little more confident too with the base of my game, that I can always resort back to it if I feels things get a little tough," Scott said. "I am able to regroup and go back to what I feel comfortable with and build from there again."

That foundation starts with not getting too compact in his stance.

"Just making sure I am relaxed and big," he said. "I have a bigger frame. If I am playing big, my confidence level goes up from there."

After Friday, it's hard to imagine Scott's confidence be any higher.

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