When anyone talks about Scott Gilowski, the word big comes to mind. The 16-year-old defenceman made big strides in his game this past season, has big expectations of himself and, yes, he’s very big.
“I’ve been constantly growing but over the past few years it’s been getting to 6’3’’, 6’4’’,” Gilowski recalled. “I think it was around last summer I got to 6’6’’ and I haven’t really grown since then.”
He may have reached his max height already, but his passion for the game has grown each and every day since he first laced up his skates at just a few years old.
He credits his dad with helping him discover his love for hockey at such a young age.
“I just remember my dad in the room tying my skates and we’d always go out on the ice,” he said. “I wasn’t very good, but I always loved getting out there. Feeling the wind on your face was always kind of relaxing to me. I always loved shooting the puck and breaking a sweat right from when I was a little kid.”
While he began playing hockey as a forward in Armstrong, it wasn’t long before he made the switch to defence because he was one of the better backwards skaters on his team.
After moving to Vernon to continue his minor hockey, it came apparent Gilowski needed a bigger challenge. The Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton was his next destination.
“My billets welcomed me with open arms, and it wasn’t too far away from home,” Gilowski said. “It was definitely a big step in my career, but I think it was more about getting my feet wet and playing in a higher-level league.”
Gilowksi had an effective, albeit injury-hampered season with OHA; he scored three times and added 12 assists in 25 games but was hindered by an injury over the second half of the year.
“It started in January and was just a chronic injury from then on,” he said. “I finally got an MRI and it ended up being an avulsion fracture in my pelvis, a torn hamstring and torn adductors. Pretty much every time I walked or went upstairs I felt it, so it was pretty limiting in how I could play but it taught me how to work through injuries.”
Despite the injury, Gilowski was drafted in the seventh round of the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft by the Prince George Cougars, but says he never considered playing in the WHL.
“I’ve always been an NCAA guy,” he stated. “I’ve always liked the thought of going to school in the States and being able to play hockey for longer and prolonging my development for as long as I could, until I’m around 24 years old.”
After one season in Penticton, the coach of the Okanagan Rockets Major Midget program approached Gilowski’s family asking if he had interest in trying out for the team.
The Rockets have a penchant for developing junior hockey players, with Tyson Jost being their most recognizable alum, so it seemed like a no-brainer for Gilowski to make the switch to the BCMML.
“I think my two years with the Rockets were my two biggest years development wise,” Gilowski said. “The environment there was really great and really professional. It was a big step for me, but it was great to play at that level. I really pushed myself my first year and never felt like I had to hold myself back because my teammates were so welcoming.”
Not expected to produce offence, Gilowski chipped in three goals and seven assists over the 40-game season while focusing more on a defensive role.
Considering his size, strength and reach, Gilowski was trusted by his coaches over the past two years to match up against opposing teams’ top players. A role he relishes.
“You look at me compared to other defenceman in our league and some guys are putting up 30 or 40 points,” he said. “My job was to shut down the top guys in the league. I’d always be matching against guys like Logan Stankoven and I take a lot more pride in being a shutdown defenceman as opposed to being on the ice every time we scored.”
Stankoven led the BCMML in scoring, breaking Jost’s goal-scoring record with 49 goals during the 2018-19 season.
Gilowski stepped into a bigger role in his second season with the Rockets, scoring twice and adding 14 assists in 34 games. He was also named an assistant captain, something he feels he could do with other teams as his career progresses.
“I’ve always loved being a leader and trying to influence other players to do great things,” he said. “Just being there for people on a more personal level or helping them out in any way I can, I’ve always really loved doing that for other guys.”
He also had the chance to affiliate with the Vees for a handful of games last season, and after spending a year in Penticton and seeing Vees games for himself, he knew it was an offer he couldn’t pass up.
“I was totally stoked when I got that opportunity,” Gilowski said. “My first game was the Pink in the Rink game, so it was just a packed arena. I was really nervous in the room the whole time, but as soon as you get out to the ice and the smoke machine is going, the crowd is loud, and the music is going it all goes away. Adrenaline just takes over after that.”
The Vees went on to win that game 4-1 against the Victoria Grizzlies in front of 4,256 fans November 17. Gilowski would play two more games with the Vees last year, November 21 against Surrey and December 14 against Trail.
Being from Vernon, the irony of playing for the Vipers biggest rival is not lost on Gilowski.
“I’ve always loved watching those two teams play against each other,” Gilowski said. “I remember a few of my first games I watched while living in Penticton were against Vernon. There was lots of energy in the rink and I’m looking forward to that rivalry.”
After making a successful jump from Bantam to Midget, Gilowski hopes to do the same from Midget to the BCHL.
“I just want to get the most out of my development,” he said. “It’s my last year playing hockey while going to high school so I front-loaded my courses. I really want to develop as much as I can under Fred.”
Gilowski hopes to join a long list of defenceman who have come through Penticton and seen success at the NCAA level, and beyond.