Brandon Scanlin grew up going to Hamilton Bulldogs games and dreaming of being a professional hockey player himself one day. The now-former AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, the Bulldogs are now a member of the Ontario Hockey League. So, Scanlin won’t have the chance to play in his hometown any time soon.
But Scanlin did make that childhood dream a reality this past Saturday. After a standout junior season with the Mavericks, Scanlin signed a two-year entry-level contract with the New York Rangers.
Scanlin will join the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, to begin his professional career.
“I think the biggest thing for me going there was the development path they have for me,” Scanlin said of why he chose to sign with the Rangers. “I signed a two-year deal and I think in those two years they will provide me the best development, and I just think it was the best fit.”
Regarded as one of the top undrafted free agents in college hockey, Scanlin making the jump to the professional level shouldn’t come as a surprise to Omaha fans. After receiving interest at the end of last season, Scanlin heard from over 20 NHL organizations last week after Omaha’s season ended in Kalamazoo.
Understandably so, Scanlin used one word to describe the process — chaotic. Along with traveling to the Big Apple to sign the dotted line, Scanlin’s had to figure out the logistics of school, move out of his apartment in Omaha and figure out where he’ll stay in Hartford.
But that chaos and stress are largely outweighed by excitement, especially considering the amount of work that Scanlin has put into getting to this point. Coming into Omaha, there was no NHL organization attached to his name. He wasn’t drafted, and frankly, he wasn’t exactly a blue-chip recruit or prospect either.
However, none of that deterred the Ontario native.
“A lot of work has gone into this and (earning an NHL contract) means a lot,” Scanlin said. “It shows that all the hard work I’ve put in has definitely paid off, and it shows that I’m not going to change a thing moving forward. Because it’s gotten me this far.”
For the last three years, Scanlin has quietly evolved into the player he is today. Although he’s excited for what’s next, he’s also thankful for his time in Omaha.
“This program has meant everything to me the past three years,” he said. “The people make this place special, and I think we have a culture that makes you want to go to the rink. Even after a long morning of class, going to the rink isn’t, ‘oh, I’ve got to go to the rink,’ it’s I get to go to the rink and I get to spend the next three or four hours with my best friends. It’s a place where doing hard work isn’t so hard.”
He’ll also forever be thankful for the Omaha coaching staff.
“They gave me an opportunity,” Scanlin said. “Whether that’s the aspect of playing time, or even just in practice. When things aren’t going your way, they don’t give you an opportunity to take the easy way out. They keep pushing you, which helps you grow as a person, and I think that’s one thing that makes them special.
“They’re willing to do everything they can to make you a better player. Whether that’s staying at the rink late to watch video or doing extra drills on the ice, but they take their jobs seriously and I owe them a lot.”
The now-former Maverick said he’s especially proud of what the program accomplished throughout his three seasons. Individually, he feels he matured a ton in Omaha too, both on and off the ice. Whether that’s something as simple as his time management skills, or improving his hockey sense.
In 98 career games, the 6-foot-2 defenseman put up 62 points, 31 of those coming this season. Scanlin skated in all 38 games and set a career-high in goals (6), assists (25) and points (31). He was an Honorable Mention All-NCHC selection for the second straight year.
Prior to Omaha, Scanlin put up good offensive numbers with Brooks (AJHL) and had a strong freshman season, which earned him a spot on the NCHC All-Rookie Team. However, his shot was as noticeable as ever this season and Scanlin was dynamite on the power play.
Scanlin finished the season tied for second among NCAA defensemen in assists and tied for sixth in points. If there’s one thing Scanlin learned over his four years in Omaha, it’s simple. Invest in yourself and put in the work, but also invest in the people around you.
When Scanlin stood inside Madison Square Garden last Saturday in New York, his first thoughts were all of the people who have helped him along the way. Especially his parents, Derek and Cheryl.
“I think this means more to them than it means to me, because I know I definitely wouldn’t be in the situation I am today without the sacrifices they’ve made,” Scanlin said. “Even before I signed, she reached out to me and said I’m so happy for you and congratulations, this is everything. (Signing) didn’t really even sink in for me, and I think that just shows that she supports me more than anybody ever has in my life.
“She’s been there since the start and my parents have done everything they could to get me to this spot. My whole life I’ve just been trying to repay them with hard work, and it’s paid off. But hopefully, this is just the start.”