As an 18-year-old from Kingston, Ontario, Scott Harrington has a familiar sounding back story.
"I live out towards the country and there are a lot of frozen lakes out there," said Harrington recalling his pond hockey days. "My dad always built a rink in our backyard. I think almost every guy in Canada has a rink in their backyard."
How Harrington dominated as a midget minor player with the Kingston Jr Frontenacs is where the story deviates from the norm. As a 15-year-old he managed 19 goals and 48 points in 66 games and was heavily scouted by OHL teams, eventually taken by the London Knights 18th overall in 2009. Having taken power skating lessons before he ever played organized hockey, Harrington adapted fairly quickly to the speed and skill of the OHL.
About a month after the Penguins drafted him 54th overall in 2011, Harrington signed a three-year entry-level deal, a rarity for the organization but also in general.
"A couple days after development camp [The Penguins] were in contact with my agent and it kind of went from there," said a perpetually stoic Harrington. "They wanted to free me of the pressure and stress of playing next season with a contract in the back of my mind. Now I don’t have to worry about that and can focus on playing hockey."
Focus is not a problem. Harrington has always appeared focused yet unflappably calm in person, a trait that benefits his on-ice persona as a physical, shutdown defenseman.
"He’s very smooth and steady," said Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy, a very smooth and steady blueliner himself.
Harrington also plays with a physical edge to his game. He doesn’t necessarily look to always make a big hit, but relishes the opportunity to make life unpleasant for opposing forwards. Playing physically is something Harrington has always done but credits the coaching staff of the London Knights for really imbuing that philosophy in him.
"Look at Dale and Mark [Hunter] and the amount of penalty minutes those guys put up in the NHL. They don’t look for all of their players to be goons on the ice but they definitely taught us how to play the game right."
As an NHL center, Dale Hunter registered 1020 points and 3563 penalty minutes in 1407 NHL games and developed a reputation himself for being quite difficult to play against.
For his third season in the OHL, Harrington will be placed in an expanded role.
"We’re going to have a good team in London. I’m going to try and help the younger guys out that we have on the back-end and provide some leadership."
In what looks like another strong season for the always competitive OHL, that leadership will be welcome.
"This year coming up I think the league will be even better because there are lots of first and second round picks in this past draft from the states that are coming over to play in the OHL. I’m looking forward to it."
Harrington has earned praise this past off-season and training camp for how he has quickly grasped the Penguins defensive style, a system that is the same at all professional levels and one the organization tries to instill in their prospects early on.
"It was a little hard to learn at first but I think half-way through the rookie tournament in Oshawa it finally clicked for me. It’s a little different than what you’re used to in junior," Harrington said about the learning process. "The two defensemen really work a lot together and you have to work well together for it to work. They’ve given us lots of freedom on the ice and as long as you play within the system you can really show your game."