When the Calgary Flames assigned Matthew Phillips to the Victoria Royals of the Western Hockey League in September, they sent him off with a few objectives.
"'You need to play at a high pace, get stronger and be a real leader on the team - help the team win.' That's what the message was going down," assistant general manager Craig Conroy told CalgaryFlames.com.
"We just want his game to evolve and keep growing - not to put too much pressure on himself but help the team win."
A month into the 2016-17 season and it is clear the message was received.
The 18-year-old is off to scorching start with the Royals, scoring eight goals and 15 points through 15 games in October.
Four of his goals came on the power play and he netted one game-winner for Victoria last month.
He had three multi-point games and put together a six-game point streak in the middle of the month, amassing 12 points in that stretch.
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"His skill and his hockey sense are his best assets," Conroy stated. "He's so smart. He can beat guys one on one. He has the ability to make things happen … he just finds the quiet areas and before you know it, it's a goal or he's set somebody up. That's what it is. That's something you can't teach.
"You can tell he has that confidence, that, 'Hey, I can do this.' And he's being watched more heavily this year, probably than last year, so he knows he's going to have to take that step forward in his game."
He's also put in the work in the weight room. At just 5-foot-6 and 141-pounds, Phillips isn't the most imposing player on the ice. Being able to compete along the boards, in front of the net and withstand hits will require him to add on some muscle as he progresses.
"Hey, he's not going to be a huge guy at any point but if he can get stronger and get quicker and elusive … those are the things he can work on," Conroy explained.
"Strength and quickness - that's what we want him to work on. That helps in all areas of your game - play away from the puck, being sound defensively … face-offs, different things like that are the things we focus on."
As for the leadership component, Conroy believes Phillips possesses the innate skills to take on a bigger role with his team. His drive and maturity will be hugely beneficial in his push to earn more responsibilities with the team.
"He comes with the right work ethic … we said to him, 'You have to earn that leadership.' Be vocal. It's not your first year in the league.
"As the year goes along, that's when we'll talk to Dave Lowry and see if he's making that push. Ron Sutter will be working with him too. You have a guy like Ron and then Lowry, who was a captain here, that's only going to help him. They only want what's best for him so they're going to put him in situations to be a leader.
"But then he's going to have to step up and actually do it. Coming here, first training camp, he was quiet. But everybody's quiet in their first camp. Now that he's back in Victoria, he's got to take that step forward."