Since the 2019 NHL Draft, the excitement emanating from Rangers fans following the signings of several young prospects who figure to be key pieces of the club's future has been palpable.
Among those prospects is defenseman Matthew Robertson, New York's second-round selection in 2019. And those feelings of excitement are definitely mutual.
The 6-foot-3.5", 203-pound native of Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada (a suburb of Edmonton, located approximately fifteen minutes northeast of the city's downtown core) feels like signing the contract has allowed for him to finally gain some semblance of reality.
After all, the last few months feel like he's just been living the dream.
It was after the Western Hockey League regular season began that Robertson rejoined his junior teammates. Not long after, the team took to the road for a five-game, nine-day road trip through the Canadian prairies - Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
While in the latter with the Oil Kings preparing to take on the Brandon Wheat Kings, Robertson got the call that would forever change the trajectory of his hockey future from that day forward.
"I was pretty excited to get pen to paper," Robertson beamed, weeks later. "It's something you dream of your whole life; signing your first NHL contract.
"You dream of it since you're a kid and, once it happens, you know you'll remember it for the rest of your life."
Despite drawing plenty of positive feedback from his quality of play throughout development camp and during the Traverse City Tournament, he maintained his signature modesty and his propensity for hard work.
Because Robertson's been surrounded by mentors and positive influences when it comes to the game of hockey since he was just a young boy, he comes by that type of work ethic honestly.
His big brother Tyler, for example, spent parts of four seasons as a member of the Oil Kings, which included a WHL title and Memorial Cup championship in 2014. With that experience, his older brother was able to be a pillar of advice for his younger sibling.
"Going into my draft year, Tyler just told me to stay calm and composed and not to let anything really affect me," he said. "He told me it's not really about what happens during the draft, it's what you do afterwards.
"I think that was some of the most important advice he's given me throughout this whole process."
The younger Robertson also received support and advice from another 'brother' of his, a player his parents billeted for four seasons - Griffin Reinhart.
Reinhart, who was eventually selected in the first round, 4th overall by the New York Islanders in 2012, gave Robertson an inside track on what he could expect seven years later, although he may not have known it at the time.
He also gave him a few more words of encouragement the day before the draft.
"When we were in Vancouver, we actually had lunch with Griffin the day before the draft started," he recalled.
"He just reminded me that even though it's a long process, it's relieving when it's over," he chuckled.
Robertson says now that the draft - and subsequently signing his first professional contract - are in the books, he's able to take what he's learned through the experience and set some personal goals in motion for the 2019-20 season.
"My goals for this season are to continue to grow my defensive game; be my best in the [defensive]-zone, shut guys down, and take away their time and space as early as I can while playing against other team's best players.
"I also want to advance my game, production-wise, by relying on my offensive instincts."
Robertson's already well on his way to that last goal, heading into this weekend's action enjoying a four-game point streak (3G, 3A) which included two highlight-reel markers for his second and third goals of the campaign.
Not only is he focused on achieving the on-ice goals he's set for himself, he's also concentrating on his off-ice role as a second-year alternate captain for the team - the youngest in the five person leadership group in Edmonton.
"Being named an alternate captain last year as a 17-year-old was obviously a big honor, and I think I fulfilled what was asked of me," he said, "but this year I want to progress in the role a lot more."
With the Oil Kings fully entrenched into the regular season and having consistently been named as one of the ten highest ranked teams in the Canadian Hockey League, a division title defense is set firmly in the team's crosshairs.
And Robertson is motivated to be an integral piece to help guide them there.
"To be a leader you need to be respected, and you also need to respect others," he said.
"But being a good leader is also knowing when to follow, as well. I think everyone on our team can be leaders at times, so it's important that everyone takes part and works together to achieve our goals."