Colin White has learned the art of shifting gears in attempt to create more time and space to make things happen as a rookie center with the Ottawa Senators.
The 22-year-old, chosen in the first round (No. 21) of the 2015 NHL Draft, has quietly become a key cog for the rebuilding Senators despite neck and shoulder injuries that have limited him to 67 games this season.
"I worked hard this summer, skating a lot and working 4-to-5 times a week with my skills coach (Adam Nicholas)," White said. "I think creating more space and being able to think ahead has been big.
Video: FLA@OTT: White weaves through defense to beat Luongo
"Before, I just threw the puck around and didn't hold onto it. I've learned how some of the top guys in the NHL create space to set the defender off by a half-second just by picking up an opponent's stick ... a lot of that stuff goes underrated but it's helped improve my game."
As part of his video work, White has learned from mistakes as well as from watching other NHL players, including Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, a four-time winner of the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL.
Nicholas, owner of Stride Envy Hockey in Boston, has worked with White the past four years.
"In terms of speed, Colin has always had it, but Colin has learned that he can't be at a stop and allow everyone else to stay in motion," Nicholas said. "Colin likes to battle, and when you battle you're in a stop-motion, so we worked on keeping him in motion and not allowing guys to pin him and stop him.
"In the NHL everybody has good sticks, is good with their body position and body contact, so little things like teaching him how to cut a guy off and how to get off the boards and steer the guy so he can't pinch him off ... that's the stuff we work on. Little things that allow him to stay in motion and that's what allows him to look and play faster."
White ranks fifth in rookie scoring with 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists). He is ninth among rookies who have played at least 15 games in Points Per 60 Minutes (2.17) and ranks sixth in minor penalties drawn (21) while averaging 16:04 in ice time.
Video: OTT@CHI: White pokes the rebound past Delia
White said he matured and learned quite a bit while playing with Belleville of the American Hockey League last season, scoring 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 47 games.
"Belleville taught me lessons on being a professional, about getting into the gym after games," White said. "I played a lot of games and it helped me understand the grind of playing a lot of games in a short period of time.
"My coach in Belleville last season was Kurt Kleinendorst, and his big thing was having fun because if you can stay positive through the dark times, I find that's when you play your best and get those lucky bounces."
He returned to the Senators a more complete skater this season, capable of playing big minutes in tough situations.
"He brings everything," Senators rookie left wing Brady Tkachuk said. "There's no weakness in his game. He seems to be going every shift and every second of every game, so to play with a guy like that has been a huge opportunity for myself and it's been great. He's been great for us all year."
Nicholas said gaining the trust of the Senators coaching staff was important to White's development and overall game.
"[The Senators] believe in Colin and now Colin believes in himself," Nicholas said. "Colin has poise with the puck because he has confidence with the puck. When the coach rewards you for hard work, that's big. Last year, he was up and down (to the AHL), so every time he was up, he was gripping the stick a little tighter because he wants to stay up. It's tough to gain confidence that way.
"Colin's ceiling is high, and with even more confidence he'll be unstoppable in terms of how far he'll be able to push his game."
White has been productive wherever coach Marc Crawford has placed him in the lineup, and he's expected to play a big role in the future of the Senators. He has four points (one goal, three assists) and has averaged 17:53 in ice time in his past four games playing third-line center.
"Colin and I do video work and skill work but most of this is Colin believing in himself that he can transfer what we do on the ice," Nicholas said. "I'm just fortunate to work with a guy like Colin but at the end of the day, Colin White is good because of him putting in the work. He's such a worker."