At the time, Lance Monych confesses he wasn't ready to be coming back down another level.
But these days, the 20-year-old Winnipegger is thrilled about being with the Brandon Wheat Kings for his final season of eligibility in the Western Hockey League.
And when you're one of several teams expected to fight for the WHL title, who wouldn't be?
"I was obviously disappointed at first but I had a good place to come back to, at least," said Monych, who has 29 goals and 64 points after extending his career-high points streak to 13 last night in a 4-2 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors. "It's a good organization and it helped we had a good team that could make a run for it this year."
As a 19-year-old, in his fourth full season with the Wheaties, Monych set new career highs with 29 goals and 55 points. Thanks in part to that offensive outburst, the Phoenix Coyotes decided to sign him as their fourth round pick (97th overall) in the 2002 NHL entry draft last June.
Signing his first pro contract was a first step in making the jump to the next level.
Because of the NHL lockout, Monych went to training camp with the Utah Grizzlies and had his sights set on debuting in the American Hockey League with the Coyotes' primary affiliate.
"It was a good learning experience, I went their with full intentions of making the team," said Monych, noting he enjoyed his brief time around Grizzlies head coach Pat Conacher, a longtime NHLer. "I left with no regrets. It was a good time. Everyone is a top-notch player. The biggest thing is that I know what to expect next year and where I have to be to move on to that level."
With an influx of Coyotes prospects and several other Dallas Stars prospects already pegged to play in Utah, the Phoenix braintrust decided to send Monych to the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL.
That stay proved to be a short one and Monych was asked to return to the Wheat Kings, who have been the big beneficiary.
"Everyone involved thought he'd be turning pro in the Coyotes organization," said Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon. "He's one of the top forwards in the league. He's got real good size and strength and great speed. He's a big part of our team. He plays on both special teams and is a big part of the success we've had this year."
Chances are pretty good that continued production from Monych will be a key to how deep the Wheat Kings go in the post-season.
With 14 goals and 26 points in 53 WHL playoff games in his career, Monych can't wait for one final run at the title that has eluded him.