Matt Calvert's tenacious drive has been ever present in his hockey career, and he has used that energy to come a long way since he made his debut in the National Hockey League.
The Colorado Avalanche forward played his first NHL game with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 7 at the Anaheim Ducks and is now heading into his 500th game played in the league.
"It is pretty special," Calvert said of the milestone. "I kind of had a different path to the NHL. I was 18 and a rookie in the WHL. I think you tell me 12 years ago that I would have 500 NHL games, I am not sure I would have believed you.
"It is going to be a special one, I got a few family members in town for it and I am just going to go out there and enjoy it like the rest."
Video: Matt Calvert on playing 500 games
A native of Brandon, Manitoba, Calvert played for his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League and recorded 230 points (99 goals, 131 assists) in 198 career WHL outings, including a 99-point year when he served as the team's captain in 2009-10.
He split his first professional campaign in 2010-11 between the Blue Jackets and the American Hockey League's Springfield Falcons. He finished the year with 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 42 outings with Columbus and 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 38 AHL contests.
During the transition process from junior to the AHL and then to the highest level of the sport, Calvert had to learn how to modify his game to have the most success.
"I think when you come in as a young guy you are searching for a role. Most guys in junior are top-six guys and they are offensive guys. You kind of got to reinvent yourself so to speak," Calvert said. "You realize you might not be in a top-six role and you got to be good on the PK, you got to be good defensively. You got to grow your game against the best players in the world. That is a big part of evolving in this league, and I think the faster you figure out who you are and who you can be, the better off you are."
In his rookie season with the Blue Jackets, Calvert scored his first goal in his second NHL game on Jan. 8, 2011 at the Los Angeles Kings. He went on to tally 10 more times and became the first player in the league to record at least 11 goals in his first 25 career games since the Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin recorded 15 in his first 25 in the fall of 2006.
Selected by Columbus in the fifth round (No. 127 overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft, Calvert spent eight seasons with the organization before signing with the Avalanche as a free agent on July 1, 2018.
He appeared in all 82 games for the first time in his career last year and set a personal high with 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists). His 15 assists also tied a career best and he finished fifth on the team with 115 hits.
Video: VGK@COL: Calvert wires home wrister from the slot
Now in his 10th NHL campaign, the way he views the game has changed slightly, but his drive to continue to progress remains the same.
"When you speak of approach, I think every game is so important when you are young trying to stay in that lineup, becoming an NHLer for good," said Calvert. "I think after you have solidified your role and you have been in the NHL for two or three years, it is about not getting comfortable.
"It doesn't get easier every day, and that is the best part about it. We got the best hockey players in the world in this league, and you got to battle every day. It has been a battle for me for 500 games and I hope I have a lot more battle in me."
Video: COL@SJS, Gm2: Calvert assists on empty-net goal
During the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs he skated in eight of Colorado's 12 contests and added four helpers. However, in addition to his play on the ice, his value away from the rink was on display when he offered to have rookie defenseman Cale Makar live with him. Makar signed his entry-level contract during the Avalanche's first-round series against the Calgary Flames, and Calvert and his family hosted the 20-year-old for the entirety of the postseason.
The Avalanche have a very young core that consists of 22-year-old Mikko Rantanen, 21-year-olds Tyson Jost and Samuel Girard, 20-year-old Conor Timmins as well as Makar. The way that a veteran like Calvert conducts himself as a professional is an example to the rest of the group of how relentless you have to be to strengthen your place in the league.
"He's got a lot of experience in this league, and he is a warrior," said Girard. "He always gives 100 percent on the ice. He is a guy that you watch for sure, he is there for the team, sacrifices himself for the team."
Video: WPG@COL: Calvert scores 11 seconds after MacKinnon
Being surrounded by the young talent also helps Calvert in his ambition to keep developing and progressing, even in his 10th season in the NHL.
"Being around guys like (Nathan) MacKinnon, (Gabriel) Landeskog, Rantanen, the high skill around here, that was probably the first time that I had seen that level of skill in my NHL career," Calvert said on his drive to keep getting better. "In Columbus we always had a lot of hard-working teams, never the high-end talent. It pushed me this summer. It pushed me to want to evolve defensively. It pushed me to want to become a better skater. I am going to be 30 years old here soon, so the fact that I want to keep getting better you know I still got the drive in me and passion for the game.
"You work this hard and you try to play as long as you can. The fact that you hit 500, you kind of set yourself on the next goal of 750, and we will see where that goes."