Ben Scrivens is coming home.
After spending the past seven years with various teams across North America, the goaltender from Spruce Grove is headed back to Oil Country thanks to his hometown Oilers acquiring him from the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday in exchange for a third-round selection at the 2014 NHL Draft.
Now 27 years old, Scrivens has fond memories of watching his hometown team wage epic playoff battles with the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche during the 1990s. He remembers heroic performances from Todd Marchant and fellow netminder Curtis Joseph, and now he'll get the opportunity to make his own Oilers history as the team's newest puck-stopper.
"That was my team growing up… it's going to be fun to throw on that jersey and play for that logo," Scrivens said on Thursday, not long after he received the news that he'd been traded.
He added he expected to stay with the Kings for the rest of the season before heading into unrestricted free agency this summer. Therefore, today's trade came as a bit of a shock, but he said he's excited to return to his hometown and continue to pursue a career as a top NHL netminder.
Rewinding, Scrivens played parts of the 2004-05 season with the Drayton Valley Thunder and Calgary Canucks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, appearing in 17 games and winning seven of them. He really thrived the following season, though, as the go-to puck-stopper for his hometown Spruce Grove Saints. Scrivens posted a 27-12-2 record in 2005-06 and was an AJHL all-star, earning a scholarship to Cornell University.
Scrivens played four seasons with the Ivy League school's Big Red men's hockey team, serving as a backup as a freshman but taking the reins as the number one netminder the following three NCAA campaigns. As a senior in 2009-10, he posted a 21-9-4 record with a stingy 1.87 GAA and .934 save percentage, earning him ECAC goalie of the year honours and a selection as a first-team All American. Most notably, he was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the national player of the year.
Since he wasn't drafted as a junior or during his tenure at Cornell, Scrivens signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010. He split 2010-11 between the ECHL's Reading Royals and the AHL's Toronto Marlies, where he played for current Oilers bench boss Dallas Eakins. Scrivens back-stopped the Marlies to the AHL's 2012 Western Conference title, posting a 1.92 GAA and .935 save percentage during the Calder Cup playoffs.
The success Scrivens achieved under Coach Eakins in the AHL was a key factor in the Oilers decision to pursue his acquisition from the Kings, according to GM Craig MacTavish.
"It was important that Dallas gave him the thumbs-up in terms of his relationship with Ben, and his forecasting of what ultimately Ben could develop into," MacTavish said. "Dallas knows the player well, and he's played very well for Dallas. He's got a shot to come in here and really establish himself in the National Hockey League."
"Dallas is a great guy," Scrivens added. "He was very instrumental in me making the jump from the AHL to the NHL with Toronto. I'm really excited to get back to working hard under him… I have a ton of respect for him and what he does in his approach to the team. It should be a good reunion, and I'm really looking forward to it."
He returned to Eakins and the Marlies for the first half of 2012-13 during the NHL lockout and then played 20 games for the Maple Leafs, going 7-9-0 with a pair of shutouts. Scrivens was then traded to the Kings in June 2013, penciled in to be Jonathan Quick's backup this season.
And when Quick was injured in early November, Scrivens got his chance to be LA's number one and ran with it. He went 7-5-4 in 19 appearances, posting a 1.97 GAA, .931 save percentage and three shutouts.
MacTavish said Scrivens' ability to step into the spotlight during Quick's absence and excel so quickly showed the Oilers brass he has the potential to be a consistent number one NHL goalie.
"He really emerged when Jonathan Quick went down to injury the first time," the GM said. "Ben came in and played outstanding in relief of Jonathan. He was really making a case for himself as a number one NHL goaltender in those starts that he had. That caught everybody's attention and that's what's given him this great opportunity."
Opportunity is what Scrivens will be given with the Oilers as the team looks to solidify its plans between the pipes for the future.
"This gives us an opportunity to have a pretty good look at him going forward here from now through the end of the year to see how he could possibly fit into a longer-term goaltending plans," MacTavish said.
"My job is to come in and try to stop as many pucks as I can," Scrivens added. "I'm looking forward to getting acclimatized with this group and creating some chemistry with the guys on the back end. Hopefully we can gel right away, making good D-to-goalie exchanges, help us break the puck out and allow us to play in the other team's zone."
Scrivens said he hasn't been given an indication of how much playing time he'll receive, or when he'll make his debut, but he will join the team in St. Paul in preparation for Thursday night's game against the Minnesota Wild.
– with files from Reid Wilkins, 630 CHED