For Carson Meyer, it's hard to believe his college journey is almost over.
It's certainly had a few twists and turns for the Powell native who was chosen by the Blue Jackets in the sixth round of the 2017 draft.
He started his college career in 2016 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, but those familiar with his story know what happened next. After a tapeworm sapped him of his strength and led to a rough sophomore campaign, he chose to transfer to Ohio State for the final two seasons of his college career.
Those have largely gone well, but some time in the next couple of months, in either March or ideally April, his college career will come to a close and he will become a professional hockey player.
Either in spite of or because of the fact he's only spent the past year-plus at OSU, the impending end of his time as a Buckeye feels like it's speeding his way like a freight train.
"It's very hard to believe," he said recently. "I don't know. I've been doing a lot of reflecting and thinking about it lately, and it's a new chapter in my life that's coming up. It's a little bit scary, obviously, but also just sad. I have really enjoyed my experience here and I've gotten really close with these guys in a short year in a half.
"It's sad it's going to come to an end soon, but I don't think I could have asked for anything better. It's a special place. It was special to me, special to my parents. I'm really happy with it."
He still has plenty of hockey to play as a Buckeye, though. Ohio State, which is ranked sixth in the nation with a 15-8-3 record through 26 games and is just two points behind first place in the Big Ten, looks ticketed for a fourth straight bid to the NCAA tournament and has a shot at another league crown. A chance at the program's first postseason conference title since 2004 is also on the table, and Meyer wants to finish strong and make his time as a college hockey player last as long as possible.
"It's awesome," he said of being on a team in contention for multiple championships. "It's really enjoyable. It's fun to come to the rink every day. It's a great group of guys, and I'm pretty close with all of them. We are in a good spot right now but we have to keep our foot on the pedal the rest of the season here down the stretch. This is when it gets really tough."
Ohio State found that out the hard way a season ago when a team that started 19-5-4 won just one of its final six regular-season games, then went one-and-done in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. It was a tough end to a season that had Frozen Four aspirations one year after the Buckeyes made just their second-ever appearance at the NCAA's championship weekend.
If the Buckeyes are able to go far this year, it will be on the strength of a standout defense -- OSU allows just 2.31 goals per game, tied for 15th in the country -- and offensive standouts like Meyer, Flyers draft pick Tanner Laczynski and Swedish sophomore Gustaf Westland. While Laczynski leads the team in points and Westlund in goals, Meyer is third in both regards with nine tallies and 19 points in 25 games. In his last seven contests, Meyer has four goals and seven points.
"I really like where his game is at, especially since Christmas, coming back (from break)," OSU head coach Steve Rohlik said. "I think he's playing the game the right way. He's playing a ton of minutes for us. I just like his attitude. I like his demeanor. He's a great team guy."
Meyer is a key piece of both the power play and penalty kill units for the Buckeyes, showing off his ability to play in all zones. He also says he's a step faster this year than he was before, and he believes he's a better player now than he was a few seasons ago even before the tapeworm cost him a year of development.
Still, as Meyer looks forward, he can see a path to making it in the pros, and it's one laid out by Blue Jackets brass like development coach Chris Clark.
"They're not necessarily grooming me for a first- or second-line role," Meyer said. "While I may score here and there, that's probably not going to be my role at the next level, at least at the beginning. He's very clear to get my foot in the door, it's gonna be about work, work, work, skating hard, finishing my checks, trying to be a pest out there. I try to do that as best I can. I think it fits me."
Rohlik, for one, is not going to count the former AAA Blue Jackets and USHL standout out.
"He's one of those guys that you never have to worry about," Rohlik sad. "He does the right things way away from the rink. He trains like a pro. I think his confidence is a lot better than what it was. To go through what he went through and all those things, now you're in a new environment, new players. Even though he's home, he has to go through all of that.
"He gained the respect of our guys right away because of who is he, what he is and what he's made of. I think that's the biggest compliment you can give any kid."