Longtime Sabres beat writer Bill Hoppe of BuffaloHockeyBeat.com, will be writing about Sabres prospects, the Rochester Americans and related topics this season.
In his first substantial NHL action last season, goalie Scott Wedgewood compiled some pretty underwhelming numbers.
By late February, Wedgewood, who posted a bloated 3.45 goals-against average and a weak .895 save percentage backstopping the hapless Arizona Coyotes, was back in the minors.
But just sticking in the NHL for 20 games of a dizzying season in which he played for three organizations was significant for Wedgewood.
“I appreciated that opportunity that Arizona gave me a chance to play,” said Wedgewood, who signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Buffalo Sabres on July 1. “I played well. The numbers were a little tough at times, the situation we were in.”
The Sabres clearly believe Wedgewood, 26, played better than his statistics would indicate.
“They kind of spoke to me on my level and how I felt,” said Wedgewood, a third-round pick by the New Jersey Devils in 2010. “What they had (seen) was similar to what me and my agent, goalie coach and personal development people in my tight circle felt as well.”
Wedgewood possesses notable confidence despite limited NHL experience, only 24 appearances since turning pro in 2012. On paper, he’s the Sabres’ third goalie. Still, instead of wearing Rochester Americans logos and colors, he has been sporting a Sabres mask and blue and gold equipment in training camp.
“I think I’m an NHL goaltender,” Wedgewood said. “I think I can be a No. 1 in this league, no problem.”
Wedgewood senses an opportunity with the Sabres. New starting goalie Carter Hutton, 32, has never been a No. 1 in the NHL. Meanwhile, backup Linus Ullmark, 25, just graduated from the AHL. The Swede has made only six NHL appearances over the last two seasons.
“Talking to Buffalo, they said it was a good possibility to come in and battle for a job,” Wedgewood said.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Wedgewood said he simply needs “a chance to make the NHL.”
“I believe I’m ready to do that and stay there,” he said. “I got a lot of it last year, a taste of it (two years) before.”
So far, Sabres coach Phil Housley said Wedgewood has acclimated quickly.
“He’s had a really good camp,” Housley said. “He’s been pleasant to be around, he’s been fighting, battling for pucks and those second opportunities, and his work ethic is really solid, so it gives us some stability at that position.”
Wedgewood first cracked the NHL in 2015-16, playing four games with New Jersey. A shoulder injury limited him to only 10 AHL games in 2016-17.
Last season, Wedgewood experienced an odd five-month odyssey. The Devils traded him to the Coyotes on Oct. 28. Following a long look, they dished him to the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21.
“I wore a few different jerseys,” he said. “But the thing was the year before that I didn’t play (an NHL) game.”
Wedgewood finished the season with the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, backing up former Sabres draft pick Cal Petersen.
“The hardest thing for me mentally was getting to LA and them not giving me a chance to stay in the NHL,” Wedgewood said.
Wedgewood said he had to reset mentally and remind himself he did not do anything wrong.
“Someone had a different view,” he said. “Sometimes you get caught in the business side of it. So that was really hard.”
The season took its toll on Wedgewood and his girlfriend, Brittany, in other ways. The Coyotes told him to find a place to live, so he moved his belongings across the country.
“Then I got traded again,” he said. “That was tough just as an individual, my girlfriend and I having to coordinate moving around, having to coordinate where we’re going, packing things up and then getting settled, and then having to do it all over again.”
But Wedgewood is grateful for the experience.
“Fortunately, the hockey part worked out well,” he said. “You went around the world a little bit there and experienced different sides of it.”
The season also developed a little chip on Wedgewood’s shoulder. Three teams owned his services and did not want him.
He wants to prove the doubters wrong.
His expectation is to have what he called “kind of an I told you so moment.”