There's a learning curve for any player making the jump from college to the American Hockey League.
There's the speed of the game, the physicality, the expanded schedule; it's a lot for any player.
But the biggest thing Devon Toews learned from his first season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers - he's closer to the NHL than he realized.
"It showed me that I was closer than I thought I was," Toews said after Islanders Mini Camp. "Being put in a good scenario with good coaching in Bridgeport it was an easy transition, I didn't feel tired going through 76 games compared to 44 or whatever I played in college the year before."
Toews thrived in his first pro year. He was named to the AHL all-rookie team, won fastest skater at the AHL All-Star Classic and scored 45 points - tied for most among rookie defensemen and tied for 10th among AHL blueliners.
"Making the all-rookie team was a huge honor for me," Toews said. "I think that's more of a team award, a testament to my coaches, players I played with, my teammates, strength guys and trainers and everybody."
The Islanders blue line is crowded and Toews will have to contend with recent Bridgeport graduates like Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield as well as Ryan Pulock at training camp, but the quick-footed defenseman has fast-tracked his development after one year.
"Certainly he's played himself into a great conversation if nothing else," Islanders head coach Doug Weight said. "Not that it wasn't high to begin with, but he showed a lot of maturity in his game, very good skater, puck mover, he's a confident kid and definitely when you play like that, you get a chance for a real good look."
And for as much attention as his speed gets, Toews fired off a pair of 96mph slap shots in the hardest shot competition at Thursday's Blue and White Scrimmage, so he's got a decent shot, too.
Toews is taking it all in stride and if he winds up back in Bridgeport to start the season, he'll focus his efforts on helping the Sound Tigers get back to the playoffs. (It's worth noting that the Sound Tigers had the fifth best record in the Eastern Conference last season, but fell victim to the AHL's divisional playoff format, as only the top four teams in each division qualify. They still had a very good year.)
"If I get a shot, I get a shot. If not, I'll go down to Bridgeport again and try to work there," Toews said. "It's never easy trying to take a guy's job in the NHL and it's not fun either, but I'm going to come in and try to do my part and help this organization win."