An opportunity is only good if it is taken advantage of.
That's the specter facing two of the few returning forwards to the Nanaimo Clippers this season - Taylor Grobowski and Brendan Taylor.
The two have spent their collective B.C. Hockey League careers buried on the Clippers' depth chart, but this season, not a single player in their top six is back, and only four forwards altogether.
This is what opportunity looks like.
Grobowski and Taylor have one - maybe two - chances left to show they belong on the Clippers top two lines with their final two exhibition games this weekend.
"Both players have been OK so far, but they've got to step up," said head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp. "Something we've been stressing to all the players since the beginning of camp is to not waste an opportunity when you get one."
The numbers for the two Nanaimo natives with the Clippers are nothing to get really excited about.
In two seasons, Taylor has 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 106 games.
In one season, Grobowski has 10 points (4-6-10) in 50 games.
But those stats are misleading.
Both players have been productive at every level they have played and have shown they have the tools to be legitimate junior A players.
Again, it all comes down to opportunity and putting it together.
Both players have spent the majority of their time with the Clippers behind veteran offensive players, relegating them to third or fourth-line duty and, at times, the press box.
"It was tough, but I've got to remember I was young and I had a lot of older guys ahead of me and I had to wait a little bit," said the six-foot, 190-pound Taylor.
"But it's my time now to step up and fill the positions the old guys were filling."
In the Clippers' first exhibition game, he scored twice and added an assist as they beat the Cowichan Valley Capitals 3-1 on Tuesday.
"This is a year where he's expected to take another step, especially when we have so few players who have been here," said Vandekamp. "So far (at camp), I think he's done reasonably well, but I expect more out of him moving forward."
His biggest asset is his speed. He has been with the Clippers since he was 16 years old, meaning he had a lot to learn and take in. He is one of two players left on the team from Vandekamp's original recruiting class, brought in after scoring 31 points (15-16-31) in 39 games as a 15-year-old with the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League's North Island Silvertips in 2010-11.
He was paired up on the same line with Grobowski, 19, who led the Silvertips with 51 points (18-33-51) in 40 games.
When Taylor went to the Clippers, Grobowski went to the Oceanside Generals of the Vancouver Island Junior B Hockey League, and finished second in team scoring with 37 points (23-14-37) in 34 games.
Speed is also a weapon of his, but he is not afraid to get his nose dirty. He has worked hard this off-season in an effort to get better this year.
Grobowski is also hoping to grab the attention of schools.
"We're putting in all the hard work on and off the ice and if I keep working hard, the opportunities will make itself for me," he said.
"As a returning guy, I didn't have the best season last year, I obviously need to produce more than I did last year."
He also scored in his pre-season debut, against the Capitals in Wednesday's 5-3 loss in Nanaimo.
"There's higher expectations for him to be a more consistent performer, he's done that at other levels coming up in hockey," said Vandekamp. "He's been a bit of a slow starter. .. but his last couple of games he's been getting better."
The two were reunited on the same line last year in the second half of the season with Brendan Forbes and were arguably the Clippers' most effective line. That success continued into the playoffs.
"I'm hoping to take last year and put it into this season and keep going," said Grobowski, adding he focused a lot on developing his lower body and core over the summer.
"Last year we had a really good top six and my role as a goal scorer had to change," said Grobowski. "My goal is to get back into that goal scoring role and stay there."
One thing Vandekamp will have is choices. With so many new players still in camp, the two have not been paired together at all to this point, though he does not rule out putting them together this weekend or even early in the season.
"When you have a natural fit there with some history, that's a bonus," said Vandekamp. "We don't have a lot of that right now, so I do believe it will be a favourable move to put two players who do have some familiarity together."
The next two days are critical, not just for Taylor and Grobowski, but for every player in camp who still has not locked down a spot - and there are many of those.
The Clippers host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs tonight at 7 p.m. in a rematch of last year's first round series, won by the Bulldogs in five games. The two teams will then play their final exhibition game on Saturday, back in Port Alberni, also at 7 p.m.
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