Penguins defensive prospect Scott Harrington was named to Team Canada’s roster for the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship, which takes place in Ufa, Russia Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.
Harrington, 19, will represent his country for the second straight year. He earned a bronze medal in last year’s tournament, which was held in Edmonton and Alberta, Canada.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” said Harrington, who earned a roster spot after attending Canada’s selection camp. “Last year was an unbelievable experience wining the bronze medal with Canada. Playing in Canada in front of your home crowd, I don’t think it gets any better than that for World Juniors.
“But this year in Russia it should be good. They’re obviously a huge hockey country with a strong fan base so it should be a good time and I’m definitely looking forward to hopefully bringing a gold medal back to Canada.”
The WJC won’t be Harrington’s first experience playing overseas. The Kingston, Ontario native played in the 2012 Canada-Russia Challenge this past summer with the first two games taking place in Yaroslavl, Russia, home of the Kontinental Hockey League team that lost 44 members in a tragic plane crash in September, 2011.
“The first game in Yaroslavl, the building was electric. All the fans had signs and you could tell that they really were into the game and that it was emotional for them,” Harrington said. “We didn’t understand the language they were speaking, but we could definitely tell what the message was and how they were feeling. So I think that we were honored that they invited us over to play there and try to lift the spirits of the community again.”
Harrington, Pittsburgh’s second-round pick (54th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, is captain of the first-place London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. He served as an alternate for London last season as the club won the OHL title and a berth in the Memorial Cup.
Hockey Canada named him an alternate captain for the WJC. He also served as an alternate captain during the Canada-Russia Challenge. In fact, in one contest Harrington actually had the “C” on his jersey – an experience he will never forget.
“That was probably the most surreal experience I’ve had so far,” he said. “I knew coming into the camp this summer, being one of the seven returning guys, that I’d be looked upon for providing a little bit of leadership. You don’t need to provide too much leadership on teams like that because, for the most part, all the guys on the team are captains of their junior teams, but it was really cool getting to wear an A the first game. Then Ryan Murray wasn’t playing the second game, so they put the ‘C’ on my jersey and that was so cool.
“I remember growing up every Christmas watching World Juniors on Boxing Day and never did I dream that I was going to wear a ‘C’ one day. I was really proud of that.”
It’s no coincidence that Harrington is playing in the highest junior international competition. Harrington is a coach’s dream. He’s a smart hockey player with sound fundamentals and has become one of the premiere shutdown defenders in the entire Canadian Hockey League. He will likely fill such a role with Team Canada in the WJC, a role he executed last year very well.
“He’s Mr. Consistency,” Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “He just plays with the same consistency day in and day out. He gives you the same thing every time he puts the equipment on, which is a steady, simple, plays his foundation keys type of defenseman. Those are the guys that coaches love to coach.”
Harrington is captain for London, previously a captain for Team Canada, won an OHL title, runner-up in the Memorial Cup and earned a bronze medal. Not a bad resume for the 19-year-old Penguins prospect.
“He can take all the credit,” Fitzgerald said of Harrington’s accomplishments. “It’s his makeup. It’s what he does day in and day out. He’s going to be a pros pro. He’ll come in, punch the clock, work. He’ll play a long time with that workman attitude. We’re proud, but he can take all the credit for that. He’s putting in the time and effort and sweat equity. It’s paying off for him.”
Note: Other Penguins prospects will be participating in the WJC. Olli Maatta (first round, 22nd overall, 2012 NHL Draft) will play for Finland for the third consecutive year. Teddy Blueger (second round, 52nd overall, 2012) will suit up for Latvia. And Anton Zlobin (sixth round, 173rd overall, 2012) will attempt to become the fourth Penguins representative at the WJC. Zlobin is competing in Russia’s selection camp being held Dec. 7-20 in Novogorsk, Russia.