Braden Schneider didn't have to look far for advice during his draft year. In fact, on most nights during the 2019-20 Western Hockey League campaign, he only had to look over his shoulder.
The 18-year-old defenceman was part of a Brandon Wheat Kings squad with a new head coach this season - 20-year NHL veteran, Dave Lowry.
Having that amount of experience behind the bench was extremely beneficial for Schneider - ranked ninth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting - who admits he was trying to do all he could to stand out in his draft year.
"He said 'don't be something you're not.' I was trying to skate the puck out of the zone and go end-to-end all the time," said Schneider, whose 6'2" and 209-pound frame makes for an intimidating presence on Brandon's blue line.
"He just said 'keep it simple. Your game is good and people want to see you, they don't want to see what you're not,'" added Schneider. "He was always in the back of my head and was always helping me out and there for me if I needed it. He was a huge help for me."
Schneider settled in, and despite the pandemic shortened WHL season, he still finished with career-highs in assists (35) and points (42). His 35 helpers were the second most on his team and 13th among the league's defencemen, as the Wheat Kings finished third in the East Division.
"Once we got to Christmas, I think for everyone, it all blended together and we meshed really well," Schneider said of his team, who earned 22 of their 35 wins after the Christmas break.
"Once we got meshed together, we were one of the best teams. We were a team that could compete and could be hard to play against and get some scoring done as well."
One of the two teams to finish ahead of the Wheat Kings in the East Division was Schneider's hometown junior team, the Prince Albert Raiders.
Schneider played his AA and AAA hockey in Prince Albert and while he was there, he saw a lot of current Winnipeg Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey.
Morrissey wore Raiders colours from 2011 until 2015, when he was traded to the Kelowna Rockets.
In 2013-14, Morrissey was the captain of the Raiders, and Schneider held the same honour with his minor hockey squad.
"There was the peewee Raiders, the bantam Raiders, and the WHL Raiders. I wore number 10, he wore number 10," said Schneider. "All the captains (of those teams) were all defensemen who wore number 10. I looked at him a lot when he played."
Just as Morrissey did back in his day, Schneider had the opportunity to play in the Canadian Hockey League's Top Prospects game, where he scored the game-winner. Schneider also represented the WHL in the Junior Super Series against the Russian All Stars.
"When you go up against the top players in your league, it's humbling for sure. To watch and see all those guys that have been there and done that a few times, it's pretty special to get a chance to play with them," said Schneider. "Same thing with the prospect series. It's all players you're used to seeing on video or playing against, but when you see them - and for me being an older guy, I wouldn't have known the draft class as well.
"To get to see and meet more of the younger guys in my peer group, it was super cool and a fun experience."
Speaking of fun experiences, Schneider also earned an invitation to Hockey Canada's virtual summer camp - the first step toward defending the gold medal at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
While Schneider nearly made the squad that eventually won gold this past January, he embraced this version of the camp, which was held July 27-31.
"They talked about their expectations and what you can do to make this team, what you can do to give yourself an opportunity to play," he said. "They had some guest speakers and tried mixing in a little bit of fun and some team building stuff as well. I was lucky to be part of it and I'm happy they did what they did."
With the next WHL season tentatively set to begin on December 4, Schneider has his sights set on October's NHL Draft as the next big event on his calendar.
"I'm going to go in with an open mind. I'll probably be at home with my family," said Schneider. "I'll be excited for whatever the outcome is and grateful for the opportunity to even be a part of it. I'm excited for it, I'm anxious for it, I think it's going to be a special time."