Some players get it right away; for others it takes some time. In just his first full season, defenseman Brian Connelly has proven to be a quick study.
"He's still a rookie and he has put up some really good numbers," said Rockford head coach Bill Peters, who recently mentioned Connelly's name first when asked about players who have improved the most this season.
Connelly has tallied 4 goals and 30 assists this year, ranking him second on the team in points among defensemen -- just one behind AHL vet Richard Petiot.
"I'm playing with confidence and I'm just trying to make things happen out there," said Connelly.
Standing 5'11" and weighing around 170 pounds, one potential knock on Connelly has always been his lack of size.
"I was always the smallest one on my team, and as you get to the professional level it kind of sticks out," Connelly admitted. "I can help myself strength-wise and I have to adapt my game using more speed, better positioning and improving my stick-work."
Connelly is getting stronger, having put on significant bulk throughout the season. IceHogs General Manager Mark Bernard doesn't see his lack of size as a problem.
"Our goal this year was to add a little muscle to Brian and build him up, " Bernard said. "Brian knows that he is going against bigger and stronger guys than he did in college, so he's gotten himself more prepared that way. There are lots of guys his size; Brian Rafalski in Detroit is one."
The Bloomington, Minnesota native attended Colorado College, where he led the team in assists last season with 24. Connelly signed as a free agent with the Blackhawks organization on March 26, 2009.
"He has great NHL-type vision," Bernard said. "He sets up so many great scoring chances for us on a nightly basis; he has done a tremendous job. He probably will reach 40 points in his rookie season."
A successful season for the hungry defenseman is a promising start to a young career, but Connelly knows he still has a ways to go.
"I feel like I've prepared myself well," Connelly said. "I still have a lot of things to learn and progress on, but right now I'm pleased with my game. I just want to keep it going."