Every year there's one. That player that comes into Guelph Storm camp somewhat unheralded, but ends up being the player that you just keep noticing.
A few years ago that player was Tyler Bertuzzi, an undersized fourth round pick who came into camp and hit everything that moved, and fought everyone he could.
More recently there was Nico Daws, a fledgling back-up goalie whose spot on the roster was in doubt, only to come to camp as a 19-year-old in great shape, played his but off, and is now a successful pro.
This year that guy is Gavin Grundner.
While Storm brass is understandably cautious about heaping accolades on individuals, particularly in training camp, the 19-year-old Grundner has been one of the team's best players in its first three exhibition games: involved, motivated, confident.
Full credit to a player who scored two goals and six points in 52 games last season, albeit often seeing very limited ice time.
"My attitude coming into this year was that I'm a 19-year-old now, I'm a year older and going into camp I had to believe in myself and have confidence," said Grundner, who hails from Riverside, between Windsor and Tecumseh.
"I knew coming in that I had to showcase that I can have an impact as a 19-year-old ... but it's a given that you have to earn everything."
Grundner picked up his third point in three pre-season games Friday night as the Storm downed the Niagara IceDogs 5-2 at the Sleeman Centre.
Guelph led 3-0 after the first period then cruised to the victory, with goals by Leo Serlin, Braeden Bowman, Max Namestnikov, Matt Poitras and Rowan Topp. Two of the goals came on the power play. Poitras and Michael Buchinger each had two assists.
Brayden Gillespie went all the way in the Storm net, making 19 saves. Guelph had 33 shots on goal.
"I have confidence in my abilities. We're only two games in to camp so far, but I am happy," he said prior to Friday's exhibition game.
Grundner, like most players, has spent time with the Storm's mental performance coach Ashwin Patel.
"Confidence is huge for me. I just hope to have a bigger role this year. If you're going to the rink every day and you're not happy, it takes a big toll on you. Staying positive and believing in yourself is a big part of your success."
A former ninth round pick of the Storm, Grundner was signed after a breakout year with junior B Tecumseh.
"Last year I was fourth line, in and out of the lineup, so it's tough to stay mentally strong. But this year, I'm a 19-year-old now and I want to have an impact on the team."
That means regular duty on the second or third line and perhaps time on the second power play unit, both which have already been staples in the pre-season, as the Storm has already got its roster down to an opening-night level.
Guelph will play Niagara again Saturday in Beamsville then are off for two weeks before its final two exhibition games, a home-and-home set with the Brantford Bulldogs.
Regular season kicks off at home Sept. 29 against the Owen Sound Attack.