There’s a reason why Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defenseman Scott Harrington has the poise of a veteran and not the shaky nerves of a rookie.
Despite having only 15 regular season games as a pro under his belt, Harrington has already amassed more experience than most 20-year-olds.
Harrington served as assistant captain on a London Knights team that won the Ontario Hockey League championship and lost in the Memorial Cup Finals in 2011-12. The next season, he captained a London team that won the OHL championship for the second consecutive year and took the team to the Memorial Cup semifinals.
That same year, Harrington served as assistant captain for Canada in the World Junior Championships — the third straight year he participated in the tournament, and captain of Team Canada in the Subway Super Series against Russia.
It’s a lot of experience in a short amount of time, but for Harrington being in leadership roles before he turned pro has helped make the transition to his first AHL season a smooth one.
“I played with a lot of good leaders before I was a captain, and I learned a lot about how they carried themselves,” Harrington said. “How you carry yourself on and off the ice, and the type of person you are, it’s something I tried to bring into my game.”
On the ice, Harrington finished with a plus-minus of 21 or better in three of his four seasons in juniors and was named to several all-star teams. In his brief two-game stint with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in last season’s playoffs, Harrington recorded a goal in his first game.
This year, with a Penguins defense corps that has an average age of 22, Harrington has been the model of consistency, posting two goals and six points, along with a plus-3, in the first 13 games.
That consistency has caught the eye of head coach John Hynes.
“He’s the same player every night, consistent game-to-game and within the game,” Hynes said. “Even though he’s a young player, he doesn’t play that way. He’s a real professional.”
That consistency and professionalism has earned Harrington minutes on the power play, an opportunity that he didn’t get to experience too often in juniors, where he was a shutdown defenseman and penalty killer.
While he didn’t mind the important defensive responsibilities, Harrington always considered himself a two-way player and is happy to have the chance to show his offensive upside.
“I always thought it was important to continue to develop the offensive part of my game,” he said. “Here, they’re giving me that opportunity to round out my game and I really enjoy it.”
Harrington’s ability to move the puck well, play smart and execute and simple first pass out of the zone are his proven defensive attributes. Now, Hynes said, his strong shot from the point and ability to get it to the net are reasons Harrington is seeing time on the power play.
But those aren’t the only aspects that make Harrington’s game well-rounded.
During his first 13 games as a pro, Harrington has shown a willingness to play physical and stand up for his teammates. He has two fighting majors on the year, and both have come in response to a hit on a teammate.
Hynes said Harrington’s willingness to come to the aid of a teammate is a reflection of his experience as a captain.
“When you’re a captain of a pretty elite junior team, you have to have some of that in your game,” Hynes said. “We knew he was a real character guy, but it’s not just that. It’s understanding what it means to be a good teammate.”
Harrington said it’s been an adjustment to living on his own for the first time and learning the systems that come with playing for a new team. He credits his teammates for making the transition an easy one, particularly veteran blueliner Brendan Mikkelson, whom Harrington has been paired with on defense for much of the season.
Harrington, who was Pittsburgh’s second round pick in 2011, is well aware that he is playing in an organization with a ton of defensive prospects, but he said that’s not a negative.
“There’s always pressure, but that’s something you use as motivation,” Harrington said. “I’m pretty happy with my season so far, but there’s still a lot of learning to do. There are going to be certain parts of the game that take more work to become second nature, but I’m happy to have the opportunity that they’ve given me here.”