Trevor Kell got the same rush last night suiting up to meet the Sarnia Sting in a preseason match as he did in 2003 when he came to the London Knights as an OHL rookie.
It was an uncertain time three years ago as he competed for a job and his role is uncertain again this season.
"I'll play wherever they want me to play," said the 20-year-old, now an over-ager.
Kell showed immediate offensive production last night, scoring London's two first-period goals on the power play, both from the lip of the crease, and then adding a third-period goal in the Knights' 6-1 win.
There are five players vying for three over-age positions, but it's a good bet Kell will be one of the chosen, considering what he's done for the team in the past, especially last year.
Always a forward in minor hockey in Thunder Bay and with the Wellington Dukes of the OHA's Tier 2 junior A league, Kell was put back on defence for oft-injured Frank Redicker in a game March 2 against Peterborough. He adapted so well and so quickly he stayed on the blue-line until the beginning of May, when Redicker returned.
"It was quite a transition," Kell said. "It was easier in games than in practice when you're learning the system and position back there. I wasn't pivoting at the right times, but in games I just did it.
"As I played more, I learned to jump up into the offence more. I had to keep saying (to himself), 'Don't get caught.' "
Now Kell is not sure whether he'll be playing forward or defence.
"I'm not picky that way," he said. "I prefer forward. I prefer hitting over taking the hits."
Kell is known for his aggressive forechecking and penalty-killing.
Last night he was teamed with Matt Clarke, with whom he worked effectively last year as an offensive agitator, and Matt Davis.
Kell said he has been working out in London after taking time at home in Thunder Bay for fishing, golfing and visiting buddies. He's added 10 pounds from his workout program.
"I'm the older guy now, in the league longer, so it's up to myself to be a leader out there on the ice this year," Kell said.
Kell was a 2002 Knights draft pick, taken 68th in the fourth round. Building on 38 points last year during his checking and defensive roles, he wants to put up 60 to 70 points and see some power-play time.
With the Knights' roster still in a state of flux because of cuts to come and questions of who will return from pro training camps, it's too early to say what Kell's role will be.
"I'm in pretty good shape. I'm ready for anything," he said.
Knights leaving for NHL camps are goalie Steve Mason (Columbus), defenceman David Jarram (Detroit) and forwards Josh Beaulieu (Philadelphia), Robbie Drummond (Columbus), David Meckler (Los Angeles), Adam Perry (Anaheim) and Sergei Kostitsyn (Montreal).