Ever since he scored six goals in an all-star game when he was younger, Charlie Scott has been seeking out the toughest ice hockey competition he can find.

Last spring, he found it at the United States Hockey League’s annual scouting combine.

“There was a 6-foot-4, 200-pound guy last year, and I went into the corner and battled it out with him,” recalled Scott, who now checks in at 5-9 and about 165 pounds. “After that, I kind of gave him a little whack in the legs — and after that, it was not fun for the rest of the game. He kind of took me over.”

That incident aside, Scott held his own at the combine — and he did well enough to earn a return invitation. Starting today, the Greenwood freshman will be spending the weekend in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park, Illinois, again mixing it up with some of the top junior players in the country.

Story continues below gallery

After getting started at the age of 4 in Fishers and spending three years with South Indy Youth Hockey at Perry Park, Scott decided he needed more of a challenge.

He’s spent the past six seasons playing for Central Indiana Youth Hockey, where he’s developed into a dominating force.

In 2016, Scott racked up 34 goals and 35 assists for the Indianapolis Strong Bantam team. This season, he added 29 goals and 33 assists. He’ll be moving up next year to join the Strong’s Midget Major U16 team, which will also bump him up from the AA level to AAA.

Todd Grant, who has coached Scott at the Bantam level, has been impressed with the young star’s growth but also knows that more development is necessary before moving up to the USHL. That, he says, is where moving up to the AAA level will make a difference.

“This next year for him is huge as far as development,” Grant said. “He’ll be playing a lot more games, practice will be more intense, he’ll have more off-ice stuff. So this next year is just to prepare him for, if he does play juniors, what to expect and what kind of effort day in and day is going to be required from him in that league.”

While this year’s USHL combine is more about exposure and measuring himself against top competition, next year’s will bring a little more pressure since Scott will be eligible for that league’s player draft. Should his name get called there, Scott would likely be leaving Greenwood behind and finishing high school elsewhere while playing in America’s top junior hockey league.

That would set Scott up well to realize his dream of playing Division I college hockey — some 95 percent of USHL players receive D-I scholarship offers.

As far as this year is concerned, Scott is excited to be returning to the combine for a second year, but also “a little nervous” because of the competition level.

Overall, though, he’s a bit more self-assured heading into his return trip.

“I know what the drills are for the on-ice testing and the off-ice testing,” Scott said. “I’m a lot more comfortable, and I think my game will be a lot better this year knowing that I can hold my own. I think it’s just all up to me and how bad I want it now.”

It’s certainly rare for hockey players from Indiana to make it to the upper levels of the game, but Grant — who grew up in the Indianapolis area and wound up playing Division I hockey at Miami of Ohio — knows that it’s possible.

“You just have to work that extra hard,” he said. “But there’s scouts everywhere, and if you have the ability to play at the next level, they’ll find you.”

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.