PENTICTON, B.C. -- Skating away from his recent past will be Ivan Telegin's biggest test when it comes to determining if he's part of the Winnipeg Jets' future.
The good news is that the 21-year-old speedster was back on the ice in a competitive setting Friday at the South Okanagan Events Centre, part of the Jets' roster for their Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic game against the San Jose Sharks.
Telegin, a fourth-round pick of 2010 by the Atlanta Thrashers, has been missing in action since midway through the 2012-13 AHL season, when he suffered a concussion in his 34th game with the St. John's IceCaps.
Prior to that, a mysterious hand injury had set him back heading into his first pro year. Telegin has refused to talk about it and nothing much had changed Friday.
"After my season in Barrie, that was a great season for me (35 goals), I went back to my home in Russia and I hurt my hand," Telegin said Friday. "That was some bad stuff. It took me three months (to recover).
"It's a long story."
He was asked if there was a short version of it.
"No," was the answer. "What happened, I don't care right now. It feels good now. Everything's normal now."
Starting with the IceCaps, there was some optimism within the Jets' organization that a 6-3 forward with elite speed could be part of the team's future.
But the path to the NHL is rarely straight.
Telegin initially found the AHL difficult.
"It was a different league, pro guys, older guys," he said. "A lot was different. Longer schedule. It was tough for me. But my coach helped me a lot. He showed me video, (sat me out) one game to watch. He was showing me how I needed to play, offensive zone, defensive zone.
"I felt better and better every game. After 30 games, I felt like Superman. Better every time. And then that concussion."
IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge said the injury -- Telegin was driven into the boards from behind -- was a true setback because the rookie was beginning to figure things outs.
"He's always had this speed, but you could see he was starting to learn the pro game, getting some more structure to use and when to use his speed to his advantage," McCambridge said. "I remember that hit like it was yesterday and that was it. He tried it but just wasn't there. Ever since then, you can see the frustration, that he hasn't been able to go on the ice."
Telegin tried but couldn't practise. His treatment options led him to medical experts in Vancouver, which helped temporarily, but when he returned to St. John's, the dizziness and headaches returned.
"I would spend a lot of time thinking about when I'd be ready, when I'd start to play again," he said. "I felt bad. I couldn't sleep overnight, maybe two, three hours most. I went to Winnipeg for a couple of weeks to see the doctors. Then we had some meetings, and I think I needed to go back to Russia, be home, be around my parents, be comfortable."
So back he went to Novokuznetsk in early April until the Jets prospects camp in July. He returned to Winnipeg but still didn't feel quite right and never did join the week-long camp.
Just in the last few days, Telegin was added to the roster for the Young Stars tournament. He feels he's turned the corner.
I'm fine. I'm sleeping," he said. "I can't express it. I'm so happy to play again. I'm so excited, nervous, too. I haven't played in eight months maybe. Lots of emotions."
McCambridge, handling the Jets rookies here, is among those that think the Jets still have a major prospect on their hands in Telegin.
"He's definitely still a prospect for this organization," he said. "The skills he possesses, with his size and speed, he's a guy we were excited to have at the beginning of last year for a whole season.
"We don't expect him to be 100 per cent here. It will take some time for sure but pretty much building back from scratch and taking that time off, only having been able to play that half a season in the AHL, we'll start here at square 1 and see how he does at Winnipeg's camp and then adjust from there."