The future is coming and it's coming fast for the Ottawa Senators.
So, the team's top prospects better be ready to seize the opportunity when it comes. And by all accounts, a number of them did in 2019-20.
"A lot of these kids have come up and they're detailed, in shape, they work and they're giving us more options for the future," Sens head coach D.J. Smith said last season.
"Every time we've called up a guy, he's been ready."
With all eyes on the Sens' deep prospect pool, and the team in the midst of its rebuild, a number of players from Belleville were going to get a shot in the NHL during 2019-20.
And that they did.
Last season, 18 players played at least one game in Ottawa and Belleville. In total, those 18 players combined for 350 NHL and 515 AHL games.
There was Josh Norris' NHL debut. JC Beaudin and Jonathan Davidsson also got into their first NHL games. Nick Paul dominated in three games with Belleville at the start of the year and never looked back, playing 56 games with Ottawa.
Marcus Hogberg took the reins in the Ottawa net, secured his first win and grabbed points in more than half his starts. And don't forget Vitaly Abramov and Logan Brown's first NHL goals.
Rudolfs Balcers, Drake Batherson, Erik Brannstrom, Filip Chlapik, Andreas Englund, Christian Jaros, Max Lajoie, Jordan Szwarz, Max Veronneau, Colin White and Christian Wolanin also suited up at least once for Ottawa and Belleville.
The kids in Belleville were rewarded too. Norris won the Dudley (Red) Garrett Award as the AHL's outstanding rookie and was also named to the AHL First All-Star Team and the AHL All-Rookie Team for 2019-20. Teammate Alex Formenton earned a spot on the All-Rookie Team while Batherson got a nod on the 2019-20 AHL Second All-Star Team.
The AHL continues to be the No. 1 path to the NHL as seen by some of Ottawa's current key contributors. White, Artem Anisimov, Connor Brown, Thomas Chabot, Anthony Duclair, Anders Nilsson, Mike Reilly, Bobby Ryan, Chris Tierney and others all spent time in the AHL before morphing into full-time NHL contributors.
Now the Sens are hoping for the same from much of its next generation as they look to make the jump to the next level permanently.
Perhaps they can lean on Paul, someone who truly understood the process to make it to the NHL as a top prospect.
"It was a hard grind to get here ... and I finally got the call that I wanted and proved that I am an NHL player."