Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling got his first Stanley Cup playoffs victory on Wednesday night. This story originally appeared on Kansas.com on Oct. 29, 2014.
Kevin McClelland didn’t see the talent that made Scott Darling the first Thunder alum to advance to the NHL, but McClelland heard it.
Darling played one game for McClelland and the Thunder in 2011-12, hardly enough to display the ability that has landed Darling two starts for the Chicago Blackhawks this season.
During conversations, McClelland caught on quickly to Darling’s desire to advance his career, even if Wichita wasn’t the spot for Darling to show his potential. He was on the roster briefly during the regular season, then he served as the backup to Adam Russo during the Central Hockey League finals.
“He was determined to get (to the NHL),” McClelland said. “He came out of university highly touted, but things didn’t go exactly right for him. He put that all behind him and he wanted to really make a go of it. With his work ethic and how focused he was, it has paid off.”
The one game Darling played for Wichita was practically his version of becoming comfortable with his surroundings. He played a single game for Florida of the ECHL during the same season, and one game for Hamilton (Ontario) of the AHL the following year.
Darling had a six-game stint in Cincinnati and two games with Rockford (Ill.) before being promoted by the Blackhawks, who are without injured starter Corey Crawford, who may be ready to return this week.
Darling’s path to the NHL probably began officially in Wheeling, W.Va., where he played 32 games in 2012-13 in his first chance to be a professional starter.
“He took the opportunity and ran with it,” McClelland said.
Now that the Thunder is in the more prospect-oriented ECHL, Wichita may not be waiting long to have another player advance to the NHL. Wichita has employed several former NHL players, including current captain Theo Peckham, but none who played for the Thunder on his way up.
Wichita forward Alex Bourret was a first-round NHL draft pick who never got to the NHL; player-coach Nikita Kashirsky is good friends with childhood teammate and NHL star Alex Ovechkin; and McClelland played on four Stanley Cup winners in the 1980s.
“We’ve got a lot of experience with that throughout the dressing room,” McClelland said. “Throughout the ECHL there’s a lot of experience like that. It takes a lot of work and a lot of dedication. As soon as you give up on it, it’s never going to happen. A guy like Scott Darling, he didn’t give up on it, and he pursued it through all the ups and downs of the hockey profession.”