Reedy rolling in year one

Photo: Kavin Mistry

📝 by Nick Nollenberger | AHL On The Beat

When Scott Reedy joined the University of Minnesota as an 18-year-old in 2017, he was fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing for his home-state Golden Gophers. Coming from the United States National Development Program, expectations were high for the power forward who was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the fourth round of the NHL draft just months prior.

Reedy’s first two seasons in maroon and gold were solid for a player still in his teens, but he was hampered by nagging injuries that kept him from truly taking off. He finished his second season of college with a total of 26 points through his first 69 games.

“I battled with it my freshman and sophomore year of college. When you go through injuries, you’re going to come back and things might get tweaked… it’s not always a straight path, so for me, it was about making sure I was 100 percent,” said Reedy.

“Taking my time to just let my body heal and get back to where I felt good playing every night. It’s not always easy playing constricted, so for me it was just about letting my body heal, and then trying to get back to finding ways to get more opportunities on the ice. A lot of it is a mental battle, trying to remember why you were so dominant, what was so good about your game that you were putting up so many numbers. I just battled with it, worked my tail off in the offseason and got back to playing my game.”

Reedy would rediscover the game that made him one of the best 1999-born players in the U.S., leading the Gophers in goals the following two seasons while becoming a standout forward in the Big Ten conference.

“I’m a skilled power forward,” said Reedy on describing his game. “I like to play in front of the net, I think I have a good skill set, good hands in tight, and I use my body well to protect the puck, and also create time and space for myself. I try to outsmart opponents, try to play with my brain. The biggest part of my game is just playing around the net, being able to create opportunities for myself or my teammates in tight. Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked on being a 200-foot player and I think I’ve excelled at that. Another thing about my game is that I’m pretty versatile, I can play wing or center and I think I can play a variety of different roles, whether it’s just hitting more, playing a physical game, or playing a more skilled game while using my big frame as well.”

On April 2, 2021, Reedy would ink his first professional contract, signing his entry-level deal with the Sharks following his final year at Minnesota.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson on Reedy after the team signed him: “Scott just capped off a tremendous career at Minnesota as one of the top goal scorers each of the last two years, and as one of the nation’s youngest seniors, he has steadily improved with each season. His big frame allowed him to play a very important, versatile role and some tough minutes on one of the top teams in college hockey this past season.”

Four days after signing his ELC, Reedy would make his pro debut with the Barracuda. In his first professional game on April 6, 2020, Reedy didn’t register a shot on net in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Henderson Silver Knights, nor did he record any points. But he did prove that the feverish pace of pro hockey wasn’t going to be an issue.

The first game of a player’s pro career might not tell the whole story, but it can provide intel on how big of a learning curve the pro ranks will be.

At 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, the Prior Lake, Minn., native has the size to handle the rigors of the pros, but for any young player the pace of the pro-level often is the biggest challenge.

“Right away you notice his size,” said Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer. “He wears 54 and he’s built like a linebacker. From the start, he has come in and made a difference.”

In that first game, Sommer gave the rookie an opportunity rarely afforded to young players in their first AHL action: a chance to go in the shootout. Sommer let Reedy go second, behind the team’s top scorer Joachim Blichfeld. That decision, a subtle nod of assurance to a young player, would prove to be a gigantic confidence boost for Reedy. In the shootout, he scored, setting the tone for what he would provide in the next 16 games of the regular season.

“I think that was an unbelievable move by our coach to give me the confidence in that first game,” said Reedy. “I don’t think I was expecting it, but I kind of had a weird hunch that maybe I’d be going, so I started thinking about my move and what I was going to do. To be able to score in my first shootout attempt was a great moment.”

Photo: Kavin Mistry

Reedy would finish the final stretch of the shortened AHL season with five goals, three assists, 25 shots on net, and one game-winner in 17 games played: respectable numbers for a player in his first pro action. Going into this season, excitement about Reedy’s potential was high.

With nine players in the Barracuda’s opening-night lineup with NHL experience, Reedy wasn’t necessarily the odds-on favorite to be the team’s most productive offensive player. But that’s been the case so far. At the holiday break, Reedy is pacing the Barracuda in almost every offensive category and sits first in the AHL in power-play goals (8) and shooting percentage (35.1%), and tied for second in goals (13) and power-play points (12).

His tremendous start to his rookie season earned the now 22-year-old his first NHL recall on Nov. 21, making his debut the following night against the Carolina Hurricanes.

“It was really special. I wasn’t sure if I was expecting it, but first year pro, I had my head down working in the AHL, producing, and doing my thing down here, and it was an unbelievable phone call to receive. I was kind of speechless, to be honest. I kind of took it all in, laid in bed for a while, made the call to my parents and they had the next flight out. So, it was special I was able to share that experience with them, but yeah, throwing on that jersey and being in the locker room with those guys, in my first year pro, that was unbelievable. I was there to do a job and help the team win but at the same time, I had to take it all in and enjoy it.”

So, why are we surprised by Reedy’s start to his pro career? After all, he was the highest-drafted Gopher in Sharks franchise history when the organization selected him in the fourth round (102nd overall) in 2017. Not to mention, he was one of the top U.S.-born players in his draft class, a gold medalist with Team USA at the U-18 World Championships, and a national champion at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, one of the top prep hockey schools in the country and the same school that Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, and Jonathan Toews once attended.

Could it be the fact that he went back to college for the rare fourth year? Was it that he was the last player from the Sharks’ 2017 draft class to appear at the pro ranks? Or was it that he started his collegiate career slower than some thought, notching 14 goals over his first two seasons with the Gophers? Or was it that he represented the USA at the U-18 World Junior Championships in 2016 and 2017, but didn’t make the U-20 team the following two years?

Whatever it was, Reedy seemed to slide under the radar when he signed his first pro contract last spring. But since that point, he has vaulted himself near the top of the Sharks prospect pool, which has deepened immensely over the last handful of years.

During his junior year of college is when things all came together as he recorded career highs with 23 points and 15 goals while tying his career-high with eight assists. He also more than doubled his career goal-scoring (15 as a junior, 14 combined as a freshman and sophomore) and nearly doubled his career scoring (23 as a junior, 26 combined as a freshman and sophomore).

Although it’s not overly common for a player to go back to college for his senior year, looking back on it, it might have been the best decision he and the organization could have made. It also helped that he was one of the youngest seniors in college hockey in 2020-21.

“The simple picture, obviously, [is] an education was important to me. It made it very easy for me to get that done, so that was a nice easy addition, but the bigger thing for me is I had a good junior year, sometimes you see guys struggle a little bit, and then have that one good year. It was important for me that I realized that I wanted to dominate at the level I was at consistently before moving on… for me it was just keeping my head down, staying humble, and trying to stay on the right path for my development.”

“He has probably been our most consistent forward this year,” said Sommer. “You kind of know what you’re going to get with him each night and that’s impressive for a young player. We rely on him to play in all situations, and he’s done a great job for us.”