Rookie forward and Ontario native Scott Tanski was all but ready to head to Carleton University to start the season, but the need for an extra body put him directly on a track that would see him start his professional career by cracking the Whale roster.
After spending the last four seasons with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL, Tanski was looking to take the next step towards a professional career by attending the Ottawa school. A phone call would change that quickly, however, as he had caught the eye of Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark.
Clark sent Tanski an invite to the big club’s camp, which Tanski attended before joining the Whale camp run by head coach Ken Gernander. The undrafted Tanski then put on a show during the Whale’s four preseason games, a performance that was enough to open the door to the professional career that he had been working so hard for. That does not mean, however, that the 21-year-old expected the club’s ultimate decision.
“It’s a dream come true, obviously. It’s not what I expected,” said Tanski. “Obviously I believe in myself, but I came into camp just you know, trying to push as hard as I could and earn a spot on a team. I wasn’t thinking ahead, I was thinking anything except the present. I went out there every day and tried to give it my all and the coaches liked what they saw and offered me a contract.”
Tanski signed shortly thereafter, making his professional debut in Connecticut’s season opener in Glens Falls, NY against the Adirondack Phantoms. It would be understandable for a player in such a whirlwind situation to need to stop to be able to catch his breath, but Tanski has maintained a steady focus and maturity that should help him along in his rookie season.
“You’re still learning every day and obviously it’s a change,” said Tanski. “The boys have been helping me so far and the coaches have been really good giving me insight on what to do. I’m just trying to go out there every day and keep things simple, be reliable, get pucks in, lay the body, and get some energy because, if I can chip in on the score sheet sometimes, of course, but you know, I have a role on the team and I’ll leave the goal scoring to the guys like Mitchy (John Mitchell) and Marchy (Jonathan Audy-Marchessault) and those guys.”
He will admit, though, that it has been an adjustment from playing near his home in Brampton to moving nearly 500 miles away to the American Hockey League in Hartford, changing everything from his finances to his social life.
“It’s a little different, the guys are older here and all the guys have wives and stuff like that. Back in juniors, as a collective group everyone pretty much would hang out all the time,” said Tanski.
“Here, you have a little more time to reflect, and be on your own. It’s been a while since I’ve been away from home, when I played in Brampton, my home was only 35 minutes away. So being eight hours away from home it’s tough at times, coming from being a teenager and growing into becoming an adult, paying for your own stuff and doing all of these things.”
One of the more fortunate aspects of playing for the Connecticut Whale is the fact that the team is composed of many veterans this season, with Kris Newbury, John Mitchell, Wade Redden and others all starting the season with the team this year. Additionally, NHL veteran Sean Avery was recently sent to the Whale from New York, and another winger Tanski might be wise to model his game after, Dale Weise, attended camp with Tanski prior to being claimed off of waivers by the Vancouver Canucks. Tanski knows that these players are important for him to watch in order to grow both a professional and as a person.
“They’ve [the veterans] definitely had an influence on me coming in,” said Tanski. “They’re definitely the type of guys that you want to watch, the guys that have been around a long time because they obviously do a lot of things right.
“Coming in, just watching their pregame preparation, just watching how they take care of themselves, it’s unbelievable. You think of some guys that have been in the league for a long time and they still treat me like I’m on a level playing field with them, so they’ve been very helpful. On the ice during situations or in practice if they see something they can work on they come up and let me know and I’m all ears because I want to learn and I want to get better. They’ve been really helpful in that sense, helping me adjust to the city and accepting me right off the bat.”
The quality mix of players that the Whale has this season in terms of grizzled veterans and fresh-faced rookies would seem to bode well for players like Tanski, Carl Hagelin, Ryan Bourque and Audy-Marchessault, all entering their first full professional season. With helpful veterans like Newbury, Redden and Jared Nightingale, among others, taking younger players under their wing, the Whale rookies seem destined to learn and improve as the year goes on.