Marco Scandella Under Valued Despite Thriving Against Top Competition
In the second round of the 2008 NHL draft the Minnesota Wild selected a 17 years old Marco Scandella of Val d’Or Foreurs, because if nothing else he had first round talent and it would safeguard what was widely considered to be a reach on their first round selection that year defensemen Tyler Cuma. In Scandella it was clear almost immediately that they had a player capable of competing with the best competition in his age group whether in the QMJHL or in international competition.
Scandella quickly transitioned from Canadien Juniors and a silver medal at the 2010 U20 World Junior Championships with Team Canada, to finishing the 2009-10 season with the AHL’s Houston Aeros. It is easy to forget that at just 19 years old Scandella had earned Top 4 pairings minutes at every level of hockey in North America with the exception of the NHL. During the 2010-11 NHL season, Scandella made his debut appearing in twenty games for the Wild while appearing in thirty-three regular season and twenty AHL playoff games for the Aeros.
Upon the departure of Brent Burns via trade and before the arrival of Ryan Suter, it was Scandella who clearly was the Wild’s most gifted defender in the organization. Scandella seemed to have flashes of brilliance give way to lapses in confidence and concentration during his stints with the Wild starting in his NHL debut season of 2010-11 and then again in each of the next two NHL seasons to include appearing in only six games for the Wild in 2012-13.
Scandella finding success and earning a role on the Wild’s blue line was definitely no certainty as the organization suffered from a lack of consistency last season during a lockout shortened campaign but refused to promote him. Scandella was recalled once the 2013 NHL playoffs began and he ceased his opportunity as arguably the Wild best defender during their series with Chicago. Despite his outstanding play during the Wild’s lone playoff series, Scandella’s motis operandi has always been to flash brilliance for short period and then fall victim to inconsistency. So despite his immense potential Scandella had yet to earn his spot on the Wild’s blue line or the coaching staff’s trust.
Wild Reap Reward of an Empowered Marco Scandella
Entering the current NHL season, Scandella no longer was a string of bad games away from a trip to the AHL like he experienced in his previous professional seasons with the Wild. Sporting a brand new two year one way contract, or affectionately known as the “Bridge Contract” Scandella had for all intents and purposes earned a spot with the Wild. What wasn’t clear from the outset of training camp this year was which Marco would show up on an every game basis.
Wild head coach Mike Yeo to begin training camp this summer made it very clear that Scandella would be paired with Jared Spurgeon with the pairing rounding out the Top 4 for the squad. Scandella and Spurgeon both drafted in the 2008, had been paired previous with the Wild but also during their time in the Houston. In Spurgeon the Wild has entrusted him despite his slight frame to be capable enough in the defensive zone to make his offensive abilities worth the gamble. Scandella has thrived this season and I believe his chemistry and trust developed with Spurgeon can be directly attributed to that success.
Although the Wild’s top pairing of Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin will always garner the headlines and attention for their play and accomplishments, I would argue that Scandella has been the Wild best defender to this point of the season. Scandella has quietly put together his most consistent and productive season as a member of the Wild in 2013. Scandella is quickly becoming one of the NHLs best two way defenders and it is easy to forget he is just 23 years old. The sky is truly the limit for the young defender and the Wild reap the reward of an empowered Marco Scandella.
The addition of veteran Keith Ballard this season and Suter last season has obviously impacted all of the Wild’s young defenders in a positive way. With the remarkable performance of Brodin last year as the NHLs youngest defender at 19 years old it is easy to lose track of guys like Spurgeon and Scandella. Spurgeon is an extremely gifted offensive player and as result his ability to stay in the lineup put him a bit ahead of Scandella in the Wild’s plans but it is clear this season that the two young defensemen play their best hockey together.
Going forward I don’t believe it unreasonable to see Scandella gaining minutes to help preserve Suter for the rest of the year. Suter is definitely capable of playing 30 minutes a game but that doesn’t mean he has to especially given how well the Wild’s 2nd pairing has performed. Also lost in how much Suter and Brodin are on the ice is the simple fact that neither has been exceptional in the defensive end this season. A reduction in ice time could help to minimize their struggles on defense and hopefully Yeo is able to implement such a strategy going forward.
How High is the Ceiling for Scandella
Scandella lists Niklas Lidstrom as the player he patterns his game after on the Wild’s website while listing Scott Niedermayer as his favorite player as a kid. I am not going over commit myself here by any means but I believe if he continues to work on his game, Scandella could be considered among the best defender to ever where a Wild jersey. Sure Marco is not yet a full season removed from setbacks that were caused by lapses in confidence and concentration but all indicators this season have been that he has worked hard to address his deficiencies and each time he steps on the ice his role seems to increase.
Just my Take,