You just never know in the American Hockey League.
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban is the most recent example that opportunity can arrive at any time for a player.
Going into training camp this fall, Subban, 23, faced a career crossroads as a prospect for the Boston Bruins. He had shown promise in the AHL and had a .917 save percentage to go with his 2.41 goals-against average last season with Providence.
However, the clock is always ticking for a prospect, and he was going into his fifth AHL season and facing a battle with Zane McIntyre for playing time in Providence. McIntyre had the best save percentage (.930) last season in the AHL and ranked second in GAA (2.03).
That all changed Oct. 3 when Subban's hockey life took a very different turn. The Golden Knights claimed him on waivers from the Bruins, and suddenly the No. 24 selection in the 2012 NHL Draft had new life.
Since arriving, Subban's opportunity has grown. With veteran Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) out, Subban has the No. 1 goaltending job with the Golden Knights. He went from third (or possibly fourth) on an organizational depth chart to first in less than two weeks.
He delivered as well, getting his first win and coming within 30 seconds of a shutout in defeating Boston 3-1 this past Sunday.
It's that vision of an NHL opportunity dangling in front of AHL players that keeps them going through the long bus rides and playing three games in a 48-hour span.
Here is a look at five tenured AHL prospects still chasing a job in the NHL:
Jason Dickinson - Texas (Dallas Stars)
Dickinson, 22, offers everything needed to succeed in the NHL. The forward has size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), skating ability and a scoring touch. In his 2015-16 rookie season, he had 22 goals for a run-and-gun Texas offense. However, hip surgery in the 2016 offseason interrupted his progress; last season with Texas he had 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 58 AHL games. This season, his third in the AHL, he has four goals in four games and could be on the brink of NHL duty.
Adam Erne - Syracuse (Tampa Bay Lightning)
The march of talent from Syracuse to Tampa Bay sometimes makes it easy to overlook Erne (6-1, 214). Tampa Bay made him a second-round pick (No. 33) in the 2013 NHL Draft, and he has been a long-term project for the Lightning. Last season, Erne, 22, he had 14 goals in 42 AHL regular-season games and showed well in a run to the Calder Cup Final. He is up against a good collection of forward prospects in the Tampa Bay system, but he can play an abrasive style that frustrates opponents. Another season with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx should benefit his growth.
Morgan Klimchuk - Stockton (Calgary Flames)
A first-round pick (No. 28) by Calgary in the 2013 draft, Klimchuk, (6-0, 190) has the reliable defensive game demanded by NHL coaches. Three goals in his AHL rookie season in 2015-16 suggested a lack of offensive production that was alarming. However, Klimchuk, 22, rallied last season with 19 goals. He is in his third pro season and surrounded by a strong group of forwards with Stockton. He likely projects as a defensive forward if he sticks in the NHL.
Michael McCarron - Laval (Montreal Canadiens)
Coming into the AHL for the 2015-16 season, McCarron had a lot to offer on his resume. He won a Memorial Cup with Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League and the size (6-6, 230) that always attracts attention from NHL scouts. McCarron, 22, started off with a 17-goal rookie season in 2015-16, but slid to seven goals in 32 AHL games last season, although he did play 31 NHL games, scoring one goal and four assists. He already has played 51 NHL games with Montreal but is entering a critical third pro season. With an opportunity to play with one of the most-talented offenses in the AHL, the No. 25 selection in the 2013 draft will have every opportunity to put up a breakout AHL season and force Montreal to take more notice.
Valentin Zykov - Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes)
Carolina's prospect pipeline is brimming, and Zykov, 22, is one of its intriguing wild cards. A second-round selection (No. 37) in the 2013 draft by the Los Angeles Kings, he went to Carolina in a trade on Feb. 28, 2016. He had started his AHL career with Ontario with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 43 games in 2015-16 before taking a big step last season for Charlotte with 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists). He is a sturdy forward (6-1, 224) and can handle physical play. Part of a deep group of Charlotte forwards, he started his third AHL season with three goals in four games.