EDMONTON, AB - If you talk to marathon runners, they'd tell you a race isn't won in the first 100 metres.
Carry that line of thinking over to hockey, and much of the same still applies.
Forward Cameron Hebig was off to a flyer to begin his first professional season with the Bakersfield Condors last campaign, breaking out in his first 10 games with six goals and six assists after helping lead the Regina Pats to a Memorial Cup final appearance the year prior following a mid-season trade from his hometown Saskatoon Blades.
"I learned a lot in my first year, and the coaching staff was so great for teaching me so many things," he said on Sunday from Oilers Rookie Camp.
"The Calder Cup is a whole different level than the regular season. Obviously the Memorial Cup was a great experience and those kinds of big games you get more comfortable in, but to be around the guys in the Calder Cup and see how we operate, it was great to go to the second round but too bad we couldn't go further."
Video: ROOKIE CAMP | Hebig 09.08.19
But for Hebig, it's not how you start, but how you finish. The 22-year-old finished with 11 goals and 18 assists in 64 games during his debut season, a satisfiable rate for a rookie, but felt the effects of professional hockey catching up to him around the turn of the new year.
Your first season as a pro can be a tough tilt, and Hebig felt like he was on the ropes.
"I came out and had a good first half there, and second half kind of not as strong," he said on Sunday from Oilers Rookie Camp. "But I can learn from that, and those tough times can make you stronger."
Hebig has been able to better understand the balancing act of a long season coming into this year's Rookie Camp with 64 AHL regular-season games and a trip the Pacific Division Final with the Condors now under his belt.
"I think learning how to manage yourself, off-ice workouts, and that kind of stuff making sure you're prepared and not burnt out is important because it's a long season," he said. "Those are the kinds of things that I learnt in my first year of pro, and I can take that into this year and change things up a bit to make sure I'm fresh and able to maintain it the whole year."
Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft's first impressions of Hebig formed in the early days of last year's Rookie Camp before havign the opportunity to watch the forward become a positive example for his entire roster despite his rookie status.
Video: ROOKIE CAMP | Woodcroft 09.08.19
"I didn't know much about Cameron before Rookie Camp last year, but as we progress from Rookie Camp, to Main Camp, to the start of the Bakersfield Condors season, he's the type of guy that just showed up in every good clip for the coaching staff when we reviewed the game footage," Woodcroft said. "He works hard, he has a good skill set, he has an excellent shot, and he found ways to contribute in all areas of the game."
When referencing his first-year struggles, the Bakersfield bench boss described a compartmentalized season and how bullish he is on Hebig's expectation for growth in his sophomore '19-20 season.
"His first two-and-a-half months of the season were lights out for us," Woodcroft said. "He was a trusted player, and then as a lot of younger players find out in that league, the pace of play ramps up around the 25-game mark and it ramps up again around the 45-game mark. At the 60-game mark, teams are really humming.
"For him, it was a learning experience to understand the level of strength, stamina, the ability to be physically and mentally ready for that type of grind. He's a much player today for having gone through that, and I know he was an important player on our team last year. He gained invaluable experience."