Cliff Pu understands how it looks. The start to his season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League was, well, disappointing. At least from a production standpoint.
Coming off a season where he ranked top-10 in the league in scoring, he scored just one goal with five assists in his first 11 games.
Then he signed his entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres, a standard three-year deal that many players sign during their final year of major-junior hockey in Canada.
His numbers soared after that. Pu had a three-point night (one goal, two assists) in the next game. In November, he scored nine goals with 14 assists in 10 games.
Clearly signing the contract, solidifying the next step in his hockey career, took some weight off his shoulders, right?
"It just happened around the same time," Pu said. "People can look at it and say I got boost from that but I honestly don't think that was the case. Obviously I was happy to sign but I don't think that had anything to do with my play early on in the year. It's just a funny coincidence."
For Pu, the turnaround came through good old-fashioned hard work and believing the bounces would start coming his way.
"I just think I was trying to figure things out," Pu said. "I was bit frustrated but I kept working hard. The bounces started coming my way the last month and I'm playing with good players. I kept working hard on things I need to, like shooting, and it started kicking in slowly. Sooner or later I would get more numbers. I always trusted myself."
Pu is focused on his team in London, but he's waiting to hear if he makes the preliminary roster for Team Canada for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Men's Championship. The selection camp is scheduled for Dec. 12-15 at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont. Pu was part of the Canadian team that participated in the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich.
"The summer showcase was fun for me," Pu said. "I got to play with a lot of players from across the CHL. It's fun to go up against the best players around the world and it definitely helps your game when you play against a higher level of competition. I tried to keep those habits – my feet moving and stuff like that. I learned a lot.
"It would be a huge opportunity," Pu said of playing for Canada in the World Junior tournament. "I'll work as hard as I can to make that team and if I get the opportunity, it will be a blessing. But if I don't, I'll just keep working hard in London."
Rochester Americans: The Amerks kicked off a four-game, eight-day road swing with a 5-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday. C.J. Smith leads the team with 22 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in 21 games. Evan Rodrigues earned a call-up to the Sabres after his hot start with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in six games in his return from a preseason hand injury. Linus Ullmark picked up his 10th win and is 7-0-2 in his last nine starts.
The Amerks play a three-in-three this weekend, starting at the Springville Thunderbirds (Dec. 8), at the Hartford Wolf Pack (Dec. 9), and at the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Dec. 10). They return to Blue Cross Arena on Dec. 13 to host Utica.
Vojtech Budik (defense, Prince Albert Raiders): Picked up his fifth assist in a 5-3 win over the Calgary Hitmen on Dec. 1. It was his first point since Nov. 3. On the season he has one goal and five assists.
Brandon Hagel (forward, Red Deer Rebels): Suffered an upper body injury in a 4-2 loss to the Regina Pats on Dec. 1 and reportedly is on a week-to-week status. Hagel has seven goals and 16 points in 27 games while Red Deer is winless in its last nine games.
Austin Osmanski (defense, Peterborough Petes): The East Aurora native has one goal and 10 assists through 26 games. He is a minus-1, has 34 penalty minutes and 46 shots on goal.
Vasily Glotov (forward, Shawinigan Cataractes): Has three goals in his last three games, including a two-goal effort in a 6-4 loss to Rimouski Oceanic on Dec. 2. For the season he has 12 goals and five assists in 26 games.
William Borgen (defense, St. Cloud State): The junior has one goal and seven assists on the season. The Huskies are 11-2-0 overall after a weekend sweep of Nebraska-Omaha.
Christopher Brown (forward, Boston College): Had one assist in a 5-1 win over Boston University on Dec. 2, as Boston College split its weekend with its fiercest rival. This season he has four goals and five assists.
Jacob Bryson (defense, Providence): The sophomore had two assists in a 5-2 win over New Hampshire on Dec. 1. In 16 games, he has one goal and 11 assists.
Ivan Chukarov (defense, UMass): On a two-game point streak with assists in his last two appearances. He missed the first month of the season with an upper body injury.
Casey Fitzgerald (defense, Boston College): Has three goals and six assists as Boston College is 9-6-2 overall.
Connor Hurley (forward, Minnesota): After three seasons at Notre Dame, Hurley transferred to the University of Minnesota. He will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules and have one year of college eligibility left for the 2018-19 season. In 98 career games for the Fighting Irish, Hurley had 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists).
Casey Mittelstadt (forward, Minnesota): The Sabres first-round pick in 2017 scored his fifth goal of the season in a 3-2 loss to Wisconsin on Dec. 2. On a three-game point streak he has five goals and 10 assists in his first 17 collegiate games.
Brett Murray (forward, Penn State): The sophomore has one goal and four assists in 16 games.
Philip Nyberg (defense, UConn): Has two goals and one assist in nine games. Did not play in the Huskies' 4-2 loss to UMass on Dec. 1.
Judd Peterson (forward, St. Cloud State): The senior picked up his ninth assist of the season in a 7-4 win over Nebraska-Omaha on Dec. 1. He has 10 points in 13 games.
Linus Weissbach (forward, Wisconsin): Suffered what appeared to be a head injury in the second period of a 5-4 loss on Dec. 1 to Minnesota. He picked up an assist in that game to extend his point streak to five games. A native of Sweden, the 19-year-old freshman had five goals and eight assists in 16 games.
Maxwell Willman (forward, Brown): The senior has one goal and four assists in nine games as Brown is 5-6-0.
Rasmus Asplund (forward, Farjestad BK): In 25 games in the SHL, he has four goals and 11 assists.
Marcus Davidsson (forward, Djurgardens): Has one goal and seven assists in 21 games in the Swedish Hockey League.
Oskari Laaksonen (defense, Ilves): Has three goals and eight assists in 30 games in the Under-20 league (Jr. A SM-Liiga).
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (goalie, LeKi): Was named to Finland's preliminary World Junior roster, one of three goalies to head to camp in advance of the event in Buffalo later this month. Has a 2.93 goals against average and a .911 save percentage for LeKi, a second-tier league in Finland.
Victor Olofsson (forward, Frolounda HC): Has 13 goals and eight assists in 22 games in the Swedish Hockey League.