by Nicole Del Villano | AHL On The Beat
Justin Scott has spent the entirety of his American Hockey League career with the Cleveland Monsters, but he could not have predicted what would be in store for him when he entered the 2019-20 campaign and fourth season with the club.
Not only did Scott emerge as an important veteran leader when the team faced difficult circumstances, but he also began to cement his name in Monsters franchise history.
At the start of the season, Scott was already closing in on an impressive milestone, appearing in his 200th career game on Oct. 5 against the Laval Rocket. That outing was significant not only in the context of his professional career but also his tenure in Cleveland as the forward became one of just nine skaters in franchise history to compete in 200 or more games with the Monsters.
Scott was projected to become the new “Mr. Monster” – the franchise’s all-time leader in games played – by the end of the season but suffered an injury on Jan. 15 putting his title on hold and presenting new hurdles to overcome.
“It was an unfortunate play that happened but obviously just having good spirits and [a positive] mentality helped me come back,” said Scott. “I think it helped with it being a shoulder injury because I was able to skate throughout [my entire recovery] so I was a lot more comfortable coming back. [I kept working] on it by rehabbing it and doing everything I could to just get back into the lineup as soon as possible.”
The timing of Scott’s injury was less than ideal for the Monsters as the team was faced with numerous recalls to the NHL level by the Columbus Blue Jackets, while also dealing with mounting injury issues. While his teammates contended with a shifting personnel situation, the Burlington, Ont., native seamlessly fell into a leadership role and continued to be a consistent presence in the team’s locker room despite his inability to play.
“I take a lot of responsibility and appreciate that leadership role I was given,” said Scott. “I like to think that anyone on the team can come and talk to me at any point, and I try to talk to a lot of the guys. I just try to find any way to help the team out both on and off the ice.”
Leading by example, Scott used his conversations as a way to grow his own game by seeking advice from his coaching staff and fellow teammates. For instance, Scott reached out to injured Monsters co-captain Zac Dalpe to provide both positive feedback and ways to improve on his game to ensure that Scott avoided complacency in a competitive league.
“I think that is the mentality you have to have – to want to constantly improve. That is something that is big with me,” said Scott. “I obviously want to get to the next level in the NHL. If I can take little bits from players that are on our team, or other teams, it is very helpful.”
Scott ultimately has his sights set on Columbus but continues to make the most of his time in Cleveland in an effort to progress in his development. The forward recorded three multi-point outings while tying a personal best with a four-game point streak. Scott also provided a consistent, strong physical presence that Monsters fans have come to appreciate and admire during his time in Cleveland.
“I would personally say Cleveland is the best city in the AHL. We always get a great crowd here,” said Scott. “It is always fun to see the fans whether it is the familiar faces I have seen throughout the last four seasons or new fans that are coming in.”
Currently, Scott has played in 242 games for the Monsters in his career, second only to former Cleveland defenseman Cameron Gaunce’s 264. Additionally, Scott ranks in the top 10 in franchise history in penalty minutes (8th, 239) and is approaching top 10 marks in goals (T-14th, 38) and points (17th, 80). Having been a Monster since the start of his professional career, the joy of seeing his name climbing the ranks in the franchise’s all-time record book is not lost on Scott.
“I take a lot of pride in being a good pro and that means a lot,” said Scott. “I love it here. Cleveland is like a second home to me, and I think it always will be.”