Lightning forward Yanni Gourde's path to success in the NHL has always been difficult.
He bounced around San Jose's minor league system, experiencing varying degrees of success before signing with the Lightning and joining the Crunch in the American Hockey League.
So it was no surprise that - despite a 20 game call-up with the Lightning last season - Gourde had to scratch and claw to make the opening night roster.
Video: TBL@PHI: Gourde deposits rebound on the doorstepNow, more than four months later, Gourde has established himself in the NHL, earning top minutes and contributing to one of the most potent offenses in the NHL.
Gourde's 43 points are the fourth on the Lightning and he recently rolled off a streak of points in eight straight games.
"I'm just trying to do my job, to be honest," Gourde said. "I'm just out there playing hockey and trying to help my team win hockey games."
Gourde attributes a lot of this year's success his 20-game stint in the NHL last season, and the playoff run he had with the Crunch.
His solid play during Syracuse's regular season warranted a call-up to Tampa Bay where he put up six goals and two assists in 20 games down the stretch. Gourde then returned to Syracuse where he helped the Crunch go all the way to the Calder Cup Finals.
"Playing in the American Hockey League, I had a very good year and then when I got the call-up, I was ready to go," Gourde said. "Those 20 games really helped my confidence grow and it's just followed up to this year."
Video: TBL@BUF: Gourde redirects Kucherov's feed for PPGWhile Gourde might have been doubted on the outside, his teammates knew his success this season was coming.
"Pretty much every time I was on the ice, we were on it together last year," Cory Conacher said. "I knew once they signed him that they had kind of found a diamond in the rough. He's a heart and soul kind of guy."
And now the Lightning are reaping the benefits of giving Gourde a chance.
Still classified as a rookie despite being 26-years-old, Gourde seems to be flying under the radar in the race for the Calder Trophy given out to the NHL's top rookie.
Vancouver's Brock Boeser and the Islander's Mathew Barzal are considered the two favorites to win the award, but Gourde's play this season puts him in the conversation.
Video: VAN@TBL: Gourde buries PPG for his 20th of the seasonAmong rookies, Gourde is third in scoring, first in plus/minus rating with a +24 and is tied with teammate Mikhail Sergachev for the most game winning goals with five.
However, Gourde's attention remains on helping the Lightning win hockey games, something Tampa Bay is happy about as the stretch run begins.
Said Gourde: "If [the Calder is] there, it's there but I really want to focus on helping my team win and trying to go out there and play my game."