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The Return of Ian Scott

After almost two years away due to injury, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Ian Scott has made his return. The team has loaned him to their NHL taxi squad to be their 3rd goaltender amid Frederik Andersen’s injury.

There’s a good chance that some people didn’t even realize he was gone. Let’s break down this situation.

Who is Ian Scott?

Ian Scott was drafted 114th overall in 2017 by the Toronto Maple Leafs, lower than many expected him to go. He was the 11th of 21 goalies selected that year.

Leading up to this draft, Scott had made a great impression in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders. During his draft year, starting at just 17 years old, the goaltender played 50 games (14 higher than the next U18 WHL goalie) and amassed a .895 SV% (top among U18 WHL goaltenders with over 20 games played). Just the year before, Scott was one of only two WHL goalies under 17 to play over five games… he played 26.

When you think about his SV%, you also have to remember that Scott did this behind a terrible Raiders team. That team finished 3rd last in the league during his draft year.

The next year, as the Raiders improved, so did Scott. However, his .897 SV% was still a little concerning. He also played on an ATO with the Toronto Marlies, saving 27 of 30 shots in a win.

And then, during his final WHL season, Ian Scott was an absolute force to be reckoned with.

Scott was just stellar. He, alongside a powerhouse Prince Albert Raiders team, made it all the way to the Memorial Cup. Scott had a .932 SV% in the regular season and continued his dominant performance into the playoffs.

By the end of it all, Ian Scott was: The WHL Goaltender of the Year, the CHL Goaltender of the Year, WHL Champion, and WHL Playoff MVP. He also appeared in the Memorial Cup and represented his country as Canada’s backup during the World Junior Championships.

And he did this, which is pretty cool:

Where Did Ian Scott Go?

May 21st, 2019.

That was the last time we saw Ian Scott play hockey. It was a heartbreaking 5-2 loss to the Guelph Storm during the Memorial Cup, one that eliminated the Raiders after icing their best team in over four decades.

Between that day and the day Ian Scott was finally called up to the taxi squad… that’s 671 days.

What happened? What catastrophic event had to happen for this to occur?

Well… nothing much, actually.

I don’t know much about what happened during Ian Scott’s 2019 offseason. What we do know is that Scott appeared on the team’s development camp and training camp roster. He also appeared on the ice for both, playing a game with the development camp team.

Scott was expected to start the season off with the Newfoundland Growlers… and then he just didn’t.

A few months went by. It wasn’t until December 19th, 2019, when the Toronto Marlies released an update.

Ian Scott had undergone hip surgery to correct a hip impingement.

Alright… I made that sound a little dramatic. The truth is, this kind of thing is actually pretty common for goaltenders. In fact, it was probably better to get it over and done with rather than have him play through it. A study shown in the Journal of Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology & Arthroscopy in 2017 by Marc Philippon showed that around 95% of goaltenders he studied that went through this sort of thing came out just fine. Anyone who didn’t suffered from a previous condition that hindered them (something that I bet the Leafs would’ve already caught if that applied to Scott).

His recovery time was ruled to be at least six months. In a normal year, that timeline would’ve ruled him out for the rest of the regular season, but he would’ve been available to practice with the Marlies if they were to make the conference finals.

Of course, it wasn’t a normal year. On May 10, 2020, the AHL cancelled the rest of their regular season, plus the Calder Cup Playoffs, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Scott, while it may have delayed his return to practicing with a team, it didn’t really delay any plans to get him into a game. After all, it’s not like the Marlies were going to play him in the playoffs (and they probably weren’t making the conference finals).

Scott took more time to recover, and we saw him practice with the then-injured Andreas Johnsson as the Leafs geared up to start their Return to Play in July (in which nothing of note happened, and we all lived happily ever after).

Ian Scott was recovering, but as the 2020-21 season approached, the Leafs already had Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell on the main roster, Aaron Dell set for the taxi squad, as well as Joseph Woll and Michael Hutchinson set for the AHL, there wasn’t really room for Scott. In a normal year, Scott would’ve been preparing for the ECHL. However, the ECHL season was under a load of uncertainty, and in the end, the Leafs’ affiliate in Newfoundland voluntarily suspended their season.

It was fine, though. Lots of teams had been loaning their prospects out anyway. In fact, the Leafs had loaned a goalie out already, sending Marlies goaltender Maksim Zhukov to the Czech Republic (where he is still playing on loan).

As the days went on, I expected Ian Scott to be loaned somewhere too. Get him some games in and maybe let him stay for the season if all goes well.

It didn’t happen. It had been a year since Scott was slated to return in six months, and there was nothing to be heard. The Leafs didn’t include him on their 20-21 Training Camp roster (but that made sense, as teams were forced to use Camp rosters shorter than before).

Then, when the Marlies were finally set to start their season in February, Nick Barden of The Leafs Nation posted this update from Marlies head coach Greg Moore.

A groin injury? That’s just rotten luck for Ian Scott. 

There are two common injuries that goaltenders dread. A hip injury, and a groin injury. Ian Scott had to recover from both… back-to-back.

Maybe an update on what happened will be released at some point, potentially some clarity on even when this injury happened, but for now, we know this.

Ian Scott is one unlucky dude.

No, but seriously, what we do know from this move to call him up is that he has recovered and is ready to play. But that still begs the question…

Where Will Ian Scott Play?

The call-up to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ taxi squad doesn’t mean that Ian Scott is next in line for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Instead, I’d compare it to what the Leafs did with Alex Galchenyuk at first after trading for him before they sent him down to the Marlies. 

Moving him to the taxi squad allows Leafs staff to work closely with Scott and understand more of what they’re working with. With Frederik Andersen currently out due to injury, it also means that the Leafs don’t have to force Joseph Woll to be called up and miss out on actual playing time with the Marlies.

Like Galchenyuk, I don’t think Ian Scott will be on the taxi squad for long. One of two things will happen. 1. Frederik Andersen is ready to go and he bumps Michael Hutchinson to the taxi squad. 2. The Leafs know enough about Ian Scott’s situation and give him a place to get playing time (for Galchenyuk, that place was the Marlies).

On a fully healthy Marlies team, I don’t think Scott gets much playing time behind Joseph Woll and the recently-acquired Veini Vehvilainen. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure he’s even better than the team’s third-stringer (when healthy) in Andrew D’Agostini.

The most likely solution for Ian Scott would be a loan to an ECHL club. However, that would involve having him quarantine for longer than they’d want and they wouldn’t be able to be as close with him as they would if he was with the Newfoundland Growlers.

It’s a tough decision that the Leafs will have to make. After all, they can’t just make him miss another season, and they shouldn’t throw him to the sharks in the AHL.

What is His Place With the Leafs?

The last time we saw Ian Scott in a game, the Leafs looked very different. The team was led in points by Mitch Marner, followed by Auston Matthews and John Tavares. They still had Frederik Andersen playing the most games, and Michael Hutchinson was on the bench…

Okay, so I guess they weren’t that different. What does look different is the Leafs goaltending pipeline.

When we last saw Ian Scott in a game, he was consistently put up against some kid at Boston College named Joseph Woll. Both were flashing bright spots, with Scott coming off his dominant WHL season and Woll coming off a very solid season behind a terrible Boston College team.

Behind those two in the pipeline… there was Zachary Bouthillier. Anyone who has read my work for a while knows how much I love Zachary Bouthillier. If you don’t, here’s an article I wrote about him with my case to keep him. However, at the time, he wasn’t coming off the season that I based my argument off of. He was coming off a season that saw him go below a .890 SV% on two different QMJHL teams.

Around them in that conversation was… no one, really. The man once considered to be the backup of the future, Garret Sparks, was terrible with the Leafs. With the Marlies, the team was facing a dire goaltending situation, as they were forced to bring up ECHL goalie Eamon McAdam for games, they faced mediocre goaltending from Kasimir Kaskisuo, and just downright horrendous stuff from Jeff Glass (the man had a .849 SV%!).

It was just those two, and there was a gaping hole behind Frederik Andersen on the Leafs.

It’s been almost two years since then… and things have changed a lot.

Garret Sparks is long gone, as are the three aforementioned Marlies goaltenders. Zachary Bouthillier wasn’t retained and is set to start his USports career in Quebec. Frederik Andersen looks a lot different than he did at the time, and Michael Hutchinson… is still here.

During that time, Woll did quite a bit. His numbers look terrible with the Marlies for his rookie season, but he’s actually a big reason for why the Marlies didn’t do worse. He’s cemented himself as the team’s top goalie prospect, and he looks even better with the Marlies this season.

Behind Frederik Andersen, the Leafs acquired Jack Campbell, who at the time of writing, has a .965 SV%. He’s pretty good.

By way of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the team acquired goaltender Artur Akhtyamov, a man who already looks like a brick wall in the VHL (Russian 2nd tier professional league) and MHL (Russian Junior League) and is expected to rise up the ranks with the KHL’s Ak Bars Kazan.

They recently acquired Veini Vehvilainen, a goalie that I talked a lot about here. Vehvilainen is expected to get more comfortable in the AHL and, at 24, is expected to break through to the NHL soon.

They also have Maksim Zhukov, who has been stellar with the Chance Liga (2nd tier Czech hockey)’s HC Dukla Jihlava, with a .931 SV%.

 In just under two years, the team’s goaltending situation has almost completely shifted.

The original plan would have been to have him start with the Growlers and work his way up to the Marlies during his rookie season. 

That was after a stellar WHL season. How do you handle a guy that hasn’t gotten any game time in almost two years? That’s what the Leafs will need to figure out.

Right now, Ian Scott is closer to Maksim Zhukov than he is to Joseph Woll. That’s the reality of things.

However, the Toronto Maple Leafs will give Scott every resource he needs to get back to where he was before, and even better, get him to the potential they saw in 2017.

The worst-case scenario is that Scott’s hip/groin continues to disturb him, but that’s unlikely. Instead, Scott will have to work twice as hard to make up for the crucial development time he missed in order to get him back on track.

What’s Next?

A lot of the stuff in this article is just speculation. The Leafs probably have an internal plan for Ian Scott’s return already set up, this is just my best guess at what it looks like. It’s also likely that we hear more about what Scott’s situation looked like for the last two years and how he plans on recovering from it.

Just a week ago, I told a friend that if Ian Scott doesn’t return soon then I’d pretty much write him off. Ian Scott has the opportunity to do what many have done before… to make me look like an idiot.

Whatever comes next probably hinges on the status of Frederik Andersen. For now, though, it’s anyone’s guess.

Follow me on Twitter at @MagicianMarner and follow us @OT_Heroics for more great content!

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