When I was first turning pro, my dad gave some candid advice.
"Work hard and keep your mouth shut."
A little over 10 games into my NHL career, that's exactly what I'm here to do.
This is my third stint already with the Florida Panthers this season, and I think it's been big for my development to come up here and play. I've been playing big minutes in big games these last few weeks, which has been huge for my confidence and moving me forward as a player.
It's been exciting to take on that responsibility. I think it shows the confidences that Coach Q has in me and that he wants me to be here. He thinks that what I bring to the team can help the team win, which is all that matters. I've had a few points lately, but I'm not here at all for myself.
I really can't stress that enough - I'm here to help the team win and nothing else.
There's a lot of different things that push me each and every day, but that's the main drive. All I want to do and all I've ever wanted to do from the moment I started playing hockey was to win. There's nothing better than winning. And when the team has success, individuals have success.
For myself, I think I've progressed a bit each game that I've been here. I know that I've already come a long way from where I started. When you look at some of the games that I played during my first call-up at the start of the season, I was playing less minutes and felt like I was just OK.
Fast forwarding to right now, I feel like the last couple games I've been able to make an actual impact out there. Whether it's making a pass, throwing a hit or blocking a shot, I feel that I am contributing more each night and becoming sort of a bigger piece of the puzzle as time rolls on.
Playing alongside a guy like Anton Stralman has also been an unbelievable help. He's a great player and has a storied career. He's played a lot of games and he's a great person. For me to jump in and play with him, he's really helped me grow and see things from a different angle.
Whether we're on the bench or its in between whistles, I can always ask him questions.
"What do we do in this situation?"
"What do you think about this?"
"What did you see on that pay?"
There's a little give and take. There are times when I go to him for advice and other times when he notices something I'm doing and comes to me about it. He's so experienced and has seen so many things that I haven't been through yet. I really want to lean on him and just be a sponge.
I want to take anything I can from him and apply it into my game.
And when it comes to my game, I think I judge it the same up here as I did in the minors. At the end of the day, getting to this level is part of a process that I've been building up over the last 20 years of my life. From juniors up to here, you just keep building and expanding as you grow up.
It's sort of fine-tuning everything now. At this point, everything has become just a bit more detail-oriented because there's obviously more on the line in the NHL. For me, it's really just a matter of sticking to my routine and staying true to the core things that have helped me get to this point.
I don't take a second up here for granted. Having been around this place a lot when my dad, Cory, played for the Panthers from 2008-11, it's been kind of a throwback practicing on the same ice that he played on and that I learned the game on as a member of the Jr. Panthers.
There's certainly little bit of déjà vu, but honestly I'm just trying to block out the noise. I'm here to work hard and play. That's all I'm here to do. I'm focused on trying to get a little better each day to help the team. How I spend the rest of the day after I finally leave the rink, that's just a bonus.
Of course, my dad still gives me advice, but it's less technical and more supportive these days. It's a relationship that he's really helped me out a lot throughout my career. He's a coach right now in the OHL, but still watches all of my games. So, when I talk to him after one of my games, it's mainly him just saying nice things like "good job," "keep it going," and "how are you feeling?"
After all, he knows better than most that I'm in good hands under Coach Q.
It's crazy to think that he also played under him almost 20 years ago in St. Louis. To come in as a rookie and play for such a legendary coach has really helped my game a lot. He's got a lot to offer players. He's been in every situation you can imagine and has won a lot of Stanley Cups.
So for me to come in and play under him as a 21-year-old defenseman, I'm just here to absorb all of the knowledge he can give me. It'll do nothing but help me grow as a person and a player. And as for coaching my dad, we haven't talked at all about that.
Right now, I'm really just Riley Stillman and he's my coach.
Like all the other guys in the room, I'm here to work and to win.