Cody Glass knew he was in for a wild ride the moment his name was called out as the first-ever pick of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
But the Winnipeg-born centre certainly didn't expect the massive ups and downs that would follow in the year since being taken sixth overall in the 2017 draft.
From the low of getting cut from Canada's World Junior squad last winter to the high of getting to skate with the "Black Aces" right into the Stanley Cup Final this past spring — after they eliminated his beloved hometown Jets, no less — the 19-year-old is still trying to process everything he went through as he gets set for another big season ahead.
"It was exciting. It was nice seeing those games in Vegas, especially being against Winnipeg. It was a real great experience being up there and I really enjoyed my time there," Glass told the Free Press Thursday in an interview from Portland, where he has spent the past three years playing for the Western Hockey League's Winterhawks.
Up next is training camp in Sin City, one he believes can end with him securing a spot on the NHL roster.
"I think second time around, training camp is going to be a lot easier, I feel like I'm a lot more comfortable," he said. "My mindset going in is to make the team. That's my main goal and that's what I'm going to do moving forward and just take it day by day."
Glass got an up-close look at what it takes to be a regular in the best league on the planet after his junior season ended and he was called up to practice daily with other Vegas scratches throughout their magical league-debut playoff run, which ended with a loss to the Washington Capitals in the final.
He entered this summer with two major goals and enlisted the help of a renowned hockey talent to help him get there.
"I think it's about speed, I've gotten a lot better at that. And getting stronger on my feet, those are the two biggest things I worked on the most this summer. And I've seen the most improvement. To make the NHL you've gotta be faster, you've got to be stronger, especially going into corners with those guys," said Glass, who stands six-foot-two, weighs in at about 180 pounds and models his game after Boston's Patrice Bergeron.
"(Vegas) plays such a strong two-way game, I feel that's where they get most of that transition. Being a strong two-way player is what the coach wants. You're obviously playing for a roster spot and trying to play your hardest every night."
Enter former NHL star Gary Roberts, whose annual summer training camp has attracted some of the biggest superstars in the game today. His clients including No. 1 Jets centre Mark Scheifele. And now Glass, who said his time spent in Toronto working with Roberts has paid off.
"I really liked it, especially training with pro guys. It helps me a lot, I can see what they do to train in the summer. They gave me a lot of good tips, especially in terms of nutrition. I felt like I got a lot better," said Glass, who has also spent about a month back in Winnipeg this summer training and visiting family and friends.
He grew up in West Kildonan, played his minor hockey in Seven Oaks and was raised with older brother Matthew by their single father, Jeff.
Glass was naturally disappointed to be one of the final cuts from last year's national junior team, but had the opportunity to showcase his improvements earlier this month by playing in the World Junior Summer Showcase event in Kamloops, British Columbia.
"It was good, I did it last year as well. I felt a lot more comfortable this year. It was a really good tournament for everyone. It was nice to see all the top players come together in the summertime," he said.
After being returned to junior last fall by Vegas, Glass posted another terrific season that included 37 goals and 65 assists in 64 games. That represented a modest jump from the 32 goals and 62 assists he posted in 69 games during his draft year.
Cracking the Vegas roster could be tough again this season, as they set the bar high with their big first-year run and are expected to contend again. They signed Paul Stastny this summer to a three-year deal, showing they are serious about taking another run.
However, Glass said he takes comfort in the fact the majority of the Golden Knights' roster is comprised of players given up by other clubs. There's a feeling among everyone that you will truly get a fair shake to make an impact — including young prospects such as Glass.
"I feel everybody has a good opportunity, everybody's going to get a shot. If I get an opportunity I'm going to try and do my best with it. There were a lot of guys not doing so well with their original clubs, and now that they're with Vegas they can really develop and become a different player," he said.
"They just wanted to prove everyone wrong going into (last) year and make it to the Stanley Cup finals, and they did that."
There's also some comfort in the fact Vegas is stocked with Manitoba connections, including assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon (longtime owner, GM and coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings), several scouts and several players, including Winnipeg's Keegan Kolesar. Glass and Kolesar have been friends for years and skate and train together every off-season.
Kolesar, 21, has the experience of already playing a full year of pro after spending the majority of last year in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves. Glass leans on other young Manitoba pros for advice, such as Nolan Patrick and Brendan Leipsic.
"Me and Kolesar are really excited since we're both with Vegas. It's nice having those core guys to help me around through training camp once or twice and make it a lot easier on myself," said Glass. "And having those Manitoban guys within the organization makes it a lot easier on myself."
Glass said his priority right now is sticking with Vegas out of camp, but if that doesn't happen he's ready to return to junior and try to top last year's success. He hopes that would also include representing his country.
"If I don't make Vegas, obviously making the World Juniors is the goal. But I'm going to just take it one step at a time and focus on Vegas right now," he said.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Friday, August 31, 2018 at 2:58 PM CDT: Clarifies Glass was at the World Junior Summer Showcase event in Kamloops, British Columbia.