Some players take a more scenic route through the AHL, and the road can look very different from one player to another.
Here are five intriguing AHL forwards working their way toward the NHL:
Brooks Macek -- Chicago (Vegas Golden Knights)
The forward, 26, is back in North America after five years in the top tier of German professional hockey, Deutsche Eishockey Liga.
Those are hardly the typical credentials for a future NHL player, but do the Golden Knights have something in Macek? In a new era where once-overlooked forwards Yanni Gourde of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jonathan Marchessault of the Golden Knights have gone on to top NHL roles, the question cannot be so easily dismissed.
The Detroit Red Wings selected Macek in the sixth round (No. 171) of the 2010 NHL Draft, but he did not stick with the organization. When Macek headed to Germany in 2013 after five seasons in the Western Hockey League, big, heavy hockey was in style.
The game that Macek returned to this year is much more suited to his size (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) and on-ice vision.
The Golden Knights signed Macek, a Winnipeg, Manitoba native, to a one-year contract June 12 after he had a 26-goal season with Munich in winning the DEL championship.
Macek leads the AHL in goals (14) and points (21) through 14 games. He had five assists in a 5-3 win at Milwaukee (Nashville Predators) on Nov. 7 to go with four two-goal games and a hat trick.
With the Golden Knights trying to recover from a 7-10-1 start, Macek may be in prime position for an NHL callup.
Michael McCarron -- Laval (Montreal Canadiens)
With the Canadiens attempting to rebuild their farm system, they need a player that they invested a first-round pick (No. 25) on in the 2013 NHL Draft to pan out.
It has been an uneven road for McCarron. The forward had 17 goals as an AHL rookie in 2015-16. He saw callups to Montreal in each of the past three seasons (69 NHL games total) but could not stick. The Canadiens signed him to a one-year contract Sept. 10.
McCarron, 23, knows he is on the clock, which is why he spent this summer retooling his game. Skating has been the most significant blemish on his scouting report, so he worked with renowned power skating coach Kathy McLlwain.
For a player with size (6-6, 230) and a willingness to drive the net, adding speed would make McCarron an issue for opposing defensemen.
"I knew it was going to be a big summer for me," McCarron said.
In a one-on-one meeting, Laval coach Joel Bouchard tried to assess the young forward's state of mind going into a crucial fourth pro season in a career that has had its share of frustration.
"I think it was something that needed to be talked about," McCarron said. "You can't just sit in silence, because that is what kills."
"If you're not up to par with your game, he is going to let you know."
It will be up to McCarron to hold up his end of the bargain.
"I'm just playing as hard as I can, and we'll see where things go, said McCarron, who has six points (two goals, four assists) in 13 games for Laval.
Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang -- Bridgeport (New York Islanders)
The Islanders selected Dal Colle (6-3, 204) fifth in the 2014 NHL Draft and followed it up by choosing Ho-Sang (6-0, 173) at No. 28.
Four years later, they are starting to see some results after difficult pro beginnings for each player.
Bridgeport has put Dal Colle and Ho-Sang together on a line with veteran Connor Jones, and it has paid off.
Ho-Sang leads Bridgeport with 15 points (one goal, 14 assists) in 15 games. Dal Colle is second with 14 points (a team-leading seven goals, seven assists) in 13 games.
Denis Gurianov -- Texas (Dallas Stars)
Neither the Stars nor Gurianov envisioned a run through the Calder Cup Playoffs unfolding the way it did for the young prospect.
Dallas selected drafted him No. 12 in the 2015 NHL Draft, and he entered the AHL in 2016-17 at age 19. Through ups and downs during his first two pro seasons, he showed some promise.
However, after scoring 19 goals in the 2017-18 regular season, his play faded in the postseason. It ended with Texas coach Derek Laxdal making him a healthy scratch in five of the seven games of the Calder Cup Final against Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs).
A lot more is needed from a first-round pick, but patience is starting to pay off.
Gurianov (6-2, 195) is 21, and he would hardly be the first prospect who needed a patient hand to guide him through the adjustment to the pro game.
After a six-game goal streak, he earned a recall to Dallas and scored his first NHL goal Nov. 10 against Nashville. Returned to Texas after that game, he scored in his first game back and has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 12 games.