Matt Carey used to sit next to his older brother Greg in the locker room of the St. Lawrence University hockey team. Now their conversations are a bit more long-distance.
"We talk every day," Carey said, with his brother now in Arizona. "We try and create little bit of an atmosphere where he's trying to teach me something, and I'm trying to teach him."
In his one year of college hockey as a Saint, the younger Carey got to watch his brother be named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Trophy for the second straight year.
It's an award given annually the top college hockey player, and Greg was named one of three finalists in Matt's season at St. Lawrence.
Matt didn't have a bad year either, and parlayed one of the most productive seasons for a freshman into a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.
"School, as great as I did the first year — I had a 3.7 average — it was so tough being able to juggle school and hockey, and I wanted to be able to focus on one," Carey said. "I knew school was always going to be there, but you never know what's going to happen in hockey."
He jumped straight into the NHL, playing two games for the Chicago Blackhawks at the end of the 2013-14 season, before spending all of last year in the AHL at Rockford.
"It's not like college hockey where you're a stud and a big fish in a small pond, now it's the other way around: you're a small fish in a big pond," Carey said.
He bounced around Rockford's lineup, playing on all four lines, getting time on the power play, and some work on the penalty kill.
"He's a guy who's played mainly on the fourth line and he had 10 goals," said John Torchetti, head coach of the Iowa Wild. "That means that he has a good chance of having a better role on our team maybe, a third line role or higher, if he keeps going the right direction."
Torchetti hasn't had many interactions with Carey yet, but he has seen firsthand what he's capable of. In six games against Iowa last year playing for Rockford, Carey had two goals and three assists.
"One game, I don't know if he got the game-winner, but he was a big part of it, and that's when we noticed him," Torchetti said. " He has a heavy shot, a real heavy shot. He's probably just figuring out the pro game."
While Carey turned pro two years ago, he's still a student to the game in many respects.
"The number one thing for prospects is the quicker they learn the defensive game, the faster they move up to the NHL and play," Torchetti said. "Most coaches want responsible players. Nobody is ever going to hold you back from getting points, but if you play a real structured defensive game, you're going to get plenty of points."
And in Minnesota, Head Coach Mike Yeo preaches a style of play that Carey said he's making sure he can play.
"He wants defense first, and then offense comes second," Carey said. "I can play in the offensive zone but not everyone can play in the defensive zone. That's something I need to learn and shape my game around before I start scoring goals."
Carey has been taking what the coaches ask of him to heart, and applying in to training camp. He was in the lineup for the Wild's preseason opener against the Buffalo Sabres, something Yeo said he earned.
"You want to make sure that some guys get some experience and answer some questions for you, but you always make sure that you have a couple of spots available for some guys that earn the opportunity," Yeo said.
For a player attempting to climb the ranks in a new organization that validation is paramount.
"It was a great confidence-booster," Carey said. "As soon as he said I deserved it — I just wanted to come to camp and work as hard as I could."
Carey said he would never find as much on-ice chemistry as he has with brother Greg, cultivated from days playing pond hockey, but he's finding his place in the Wild organization.
"If I'm on the fourth line in Iowa, third line, second line, first line, it's just game-by-game," Carey said. "I need to make sure I'm playing the way I know I can play rather than just trying to change it."
And as far as Carey gets, he'll always have brother Greg — now in the Coyotes' organization in the AHL — to thank.
"I sat beside him in the locker room, and throughout each period we were just going over what was going on," Carey said. "He obviously guided me through St. Lawrence and tried to make me understand."