Scott Sabourin Took An Unusual Path To Become An NHL Prospect With LA Kings

Los Angeles Kings right wing prospect Scott Sabourin, shown
here during the Kings’ 2013 Training Camp.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/
LOS ANGELES — While Los Angeles Kings loyalists are collectively holding their breathe, anxiously awaiting word on the condition of superstar goaltender Jonathan Quick, who suffered an apparent lower body injury at Buffalo on Tuesday night (a 3-2 shootout loss), the rest of the hockey world has not stopped.

In fact, it has not stopped for the Kings, either, even though Quick’s condition has to be foremost on their minds. Indeed, time marches on, as does their work, which includes developing their young prospects.

Their newest prospect, right wing Scott Sabourin, was an unknown in the Kings’ Rookie Camp, Rookie Tournament, Training Camp and pre-season games. But he quickly surprised everyone right from the start, displaying skating ability and puck skills that no one expected.

“I guess there was a lot of excitement going into camp, and I just fed off that,” said the 21-year-old, 6-3, 203-pound native of Orleans, Ontario. “Being around all the big guys—guys I’ve looked up to my whole life—I’ve always dreamt about being in the NHL, so to have the chance to actually be there, and be in a tryout, I didn’t want to overlook the opportunity. I wanted to make sure I gave it my all out there. I did that, and luckily, I had a couple of good chances, I scored a goal, and I guess I had a good camp, overall.”

The first of those chances came during a split-squad pre-season game on September 15 at Phoenix, when a burst of speed helped him split two Coyotes defenders, and go in on a breakaway (his wrist shot missed, wide left).

Sabourin made good on his second opportunity, scoring a rather nifty goal during a pre-season contest at Anaheim two days later.

“To be honest, yeah, I was [surprised about my play in camp], a little bit,” said Sabourin. “I find it’s easier playing with better players. It’s more predictable. You know where they’re going to be, they’re always putting the puck on your tape, and you always know they’re going to make the right plays, so you’ve got nothing to worry about out there. You just keep it simple. When you’ve got good players around you, it [increases] your own level of [play].”

But in looking at Sabourin’s career prior to becoming a professional, he was not known for being a skilled player, at least, not until his final year with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in 2012-13.

“When I was younger, I had some skill, but as I got older, my game got simplified,” he explained. “Being in the role I was in, I was playing on the third or fourth line. They just wanted me to keep it simple—get pucks deep, forecheck, and throw my body around.”

“But in my over-age year [in 2012-13], I finally got the chance to show that I had some skill, and that I could still score,” he elaborated. “[After] that season, and over [this past] summer, I kept gaining confidence, and I just brought that to training camp.”

A Different Path

Unlike most Canadian young men who become National Hockey League prospects, Sabourin did not start his career in major junior hockey at the age of 16, nor was he selected in the NHL Draft at 18 years old.

“My first year [2008-09], I played [for the] Brockville [Braves], which is a [Tier 1] Junior A team in Ottawa,” Sabourin noted. “I had a decent year there, but I never got drafted into the OHL, and I never got any camp invitations [that] year. But I guess I did well enough that year to earn a camp invite [from the] Oshawa Generals, so the following year, I went there. I did pretty well, again, but I was only there for four games before I got sent back down to Junior [A]. I was with [the] Kanata [Stallions], at that point.”

“I played the season there, and the next year, I finally got to stay in the OHL, when I was 18,” Sabourin added. “I guess I’m what you’d call a late bloomer. I guess I wasn’t ready [for major junior hockey], so I played a couple of years in Junior [A], to develop my game. I worked my way to the next level, and things have been working out.”

Sabourin spent three seasons with the Generals, including the over-age year mentioned earlier.

Under normal circumstances, Sabourin, who was already 20 years old, would have been ineligible to play major junior hockey, as his birthdate fell outside of the age window. But major junior teams are able to have three “over-age” players on their roster each year. That gave Sabourin the chance he needed to make an impression, and he capitalized on the opportunity.

Indeed, 2012-13 turned out to be a huge breakout season for Sabourin, as he scored 30 goals and added 20 assists for 50 points, with a +14 plus/minus rating and 142 penalty minutes in 65 regular season games.

Sabourin went on to contribute four goals and three assists for seven points in 14 playoff games that season.

Sabourin noted that were several reasons that he had such a tremendous season that year.

“There’s a lot of factors that came into play,” he indicated. “There was a coaching change, I was more mature and physically developed, and I had more confidence. With that came more ice time, and with more ice time came more points. It all just followed one after the other. I’m just grateful everything worked out in the long run.”

Sabourin’s play that season earned him the attention from NHL scouts that he had never attracted before.

“It was only my over-age year when I started getting some looks from NHL teams, and I thought to myself, ‘I’d better take this a little more seriously, really apply myself in every game, and make sure I’m playing to the best of my ability.’ It’s a lot more fun to play hockey when you know you’ve got something to play for.”

Kings scouts showed the most interest.

“They were sort of surprised,” said Sabourin. “They weren’t sure where I came from, and they wondered how I blew up out of nowhere, but they were happy with everything. They liked the way I played, they liked my intensity, and the ability to put the puck in the net every now and then. They invited me out to Manchester over Christmas, and we sort of went from there.”

Sabourin eventually made his way to New Hampshire to join the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, late last season, playing a handful of regular season and playoff games. That helped set the stage for his eye-opening performance in training camp a couple of months ago.

But heading into the Kings training camp, Sabourin was not a Kings prospect. Rather, he signed an AHL contract with Manchester, and was in camp on a tryout basis. But his strong play turned heads enough times to convince the Kings to sign him to a three-year, entry-level deal on October 7, 2013.

“It’s a dream come true, and to do it with a team like L.A. is unbelievable,” Sabourin beamed. “It’s a great organization from the top down.”

Naturally, Sabourin’s family and friends could not have been more proud of his accomplishment.

“Both of my parents are huge hockey fans, but my Dad, especially,” Sabourin noted. “He doesn’t leave the couch. He doesn’t miss a hockey game. He loves it, so they were both very, very proud of me, very excited. So was my whole family, and all my friends back home.”

“It was great that all the hard work they put into the game throughout the years is paying off for me, so it’s paying off for them. We’re in it together.”

Being signed to an NHL contact is a great accomplishment for any young hockey player. But that’s just the start of a lot more hard work towards improving to the point where a player is ready for the rigors of the NHL. So how is Sabourin doing so far this season? He is he adapting quickly to playing at a higher level? To find out what he, and Monarchs head coach Mark Morris have to say about that, check out: Scott Sabourin Struggled “Big Time” After Great Training Camp With LA Kings.

Frozen Royalty’s Scott Sabourin Coverage

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