TORONTO- Greg Scott has a simple explanation as to why the Toronto Marlies penalty kill finished number one in the AHL last season.
“The coaches want an aggressive penalty kill and everyone buys into it,” said Scott.
Scott carved out a spot on Toronto’s top penalty-killing unit last season by doing exactly what his coaches asked him to do. Alongside Jerry D’Amigo, the 24-year-old helped the Marlies to 88.1 per cent penalty-killing efficiency and a league-best 37 goals against while down a man. He had two shorthanded goals, one behind Mike Zigomanis for the team lead, but more importantly he was able to force the opposing team to turn over the puck way more often than any team with a man advantage should.
“I make sure there’s pressure on them,” said Scott. “When you’re on the power play you’re usually thinking offence, but if there’s a turnover they have to play defence too. So we like to keep them on their heels.”
The 6’0, 195-pound Victoria native was never drafted, but he did score 70 combined goals in his final two seasons of junior, which got the attention of Leafs scout Garth Malarchuk. After signing with Toronto in 2009, Scott shuffled around the Marlies line up, but last season emerged as a player the club can depend on.
“I’ve been fortunate to see his evolution from year one all the way up to now,” said Marlies assistant coach Gord Dineen. “What a great professional he is. He’s always brought the skating ability, he was an offensive guy in junior and now he’s adapted that role of being a top penalty killer for us.”
Dineen, who is in charge of defence and the penalty kill, knows the importance special-teams role players have on a club. He has worked hard to show Scott that by being reliable on special teams he can perhaps open the door to the next level.
“Gord’s the guy behind the whole penalty kill,” said Scott. “He talks to me a lot about the defensive side of the game and that role because there are guys in the NHL simply for the shut-down role.”
Even though Scott is known to his coaching staff as a responsible, defensive forward, he hasn’t lost his ability to produce at the other end of the rink. He led all Marlies with 221 shots on goal last season and was second in scoring with 21 goals.
“We discount his offensive abilities sometimes,” said Dineen. “He’s versatile. He’s got the ability on both sides of the puck.”
“It’s something I want to build off of,” said Scott about his first 20-goal season. “Looking back I think I could have had a quite a few more goals. I definitely had the chances. I want to bear down on all my chances this year and it’ll help me and the team.”
Scott’s efforts over his three seasons in Toronto have put him into a unique situation. He’s defined himself as a responsible penalty killer, but has also shown he’s not one dimensional and gets rewarded for that often with extra time on the power play and filling in top-six.
This week he was skating on a checking line with D’Amigo and Will Acton at practice and it’s expected that will be the line he starts the season on this Saturday against the Rochester Americnas.
“It doesn’t matter what line I’m on,” said Scott. “I just want to play the same way with whoever I play with. I think I could play top line and chip in offensively but if they want a shut-down role I can play that as well. It doesn’t matter to me.”