There was a time only six weeks ago when Winnipeg Jets prospect Logan Stanley felt powerless.
His brothers in arms, the Windsor Spitfires, blew a 3-1 series lead and were knocked out in the opening round of the OHL playoffs after a crushing Game 7 defeat.
Sidelined with a knee injury, Stanley could only watch it unfold from the discomfort of the press box.
It was the 40th straight, and most punishing game he'd missed in a pivotal development year, but there was nothing he could do to change it.
The past, that is.
The way forward, meanwhile, had never been clearer: He was determined to make it back in time for what he and the rest of his team have been looking forward to all year.
"It's been a long and exhausting process, but overall, it's gone real well," Stanley said over the phone Wednesday from the WFCU Centre in Windsor - the home of the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup. "There was a 10-week period where I wasn't able to skate at all, so being in that position at the same time the guys were playing (the defending OHL champion) London (Knights), it was tough. Real tough.
"But I'm 100 per cent healthy now and I'll be ready to go on Friday."
Stanley always knew this was a possibility. He suffered the injury on Jan. 17 and after consulting with the Jets' medical staff in Winnipeg just a few days later, the 6-foot-7, 231-pound blueliner had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee the very next week.
The recovery time (approximately four months) aligned perfectly with the start of the Memorial Cup tournament, which Windsor and the Spitfires organization is hosting this year, giving them an automatic entry along with the WHL, OHL and QMJHL champions.
Now that it's here, Stanley can't wait to get back on the ice.
Video: Jets draft D Logan Stanley No. 18
"I think we've got just as good a chance as anyone in this tournament," he said. "We've got a great team in here, and for the first time all season, we get to play with a healthy lineup. These other three teams are obviously very good having won their leagues, but we know what we have in our room. Some people might think we're a little bit of an underdog, but our mindset is that we're right there with them."
Stanley may have lost more than half a year to this injury, but that hasn't stopped him from recognizing the positives and giving a realistic assessment of his first 35 games. He and the coaching staff saw considerable growth in a lot of areas, including the offensive side.
He had four goals and 17 points in the first half, matching a career high set the previous year when he appeared in nearly twice that many regular-season contests.
Still, there's plenty of room for improvement and Stanley knows better than most where to focus his attention. For now, his goal is to help his team win the national championship for the first time in seven years, but when he settles into his off-season training program in just a few weeks, his foot work will once again take centre stage in his pursuit of the NHL dream.
Stanley, the 18th pick in the 2016 Draft, is actually a fairly strong skater for a man his size, but with the ever-quickening pace of the modern-day game, he knows he'll have to stay on top of it to become the player he and the Jets want him to be.
"I think I'm going to be a good two-way defenceman," Stanley said. "I'm a puck mover. I'm not going to get my points from leading rushes or scoring fancy goals, but if I do get some points, they're going to be the result of making good outlet passes, getting shots through from the blue line and getting the puck into my forwards' hands."
Stanley says he used the experience and knowledge gained during training camp last fall to enhance his game and bring more of a "professional edge" to the OHL style.
That, and picking the brains of the equally brawny Tyler Myers and Dustin Byfuglien, helped him zero in on what could make him a successful NHL player one day.
"When I left Winnipeg they told me, 'Don't play down to the OHL level. Do the best you can to stay at the pace of the NHL camp.' I tried to bring that back here and I think it helped with my game. I had a bit of a slow start but around Game 15, I was got into a groove and the game seemed easy for me. To go out at that point was tough but even thought it was such a big negative, you try and take the positives from it - and the positive is that I did have a pretty good start to the season and I'm healthy now, so I'm excited to get back."
Stanley and the Spitfires begin the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup on Friday against the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com