The Edmonton Oilers knew Stephane Goulet had talent when they selected him in the seventh round - 208 overall - of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
But even they are surprised how far he's come.
Goulet, 20, scored 51 goals and added 42 assists in 67 regular-season games with the Moncton Wildcats last season. The native of Levis, Que., then scored seven goals and added eight assists in 13 playoff games as the Wildcats went on to win the QMJHL title.
"He's come a long way," said Kevin Prendergast, the Oilers' vice-president of hockey operations.
"He's gotten better each camp he's come to. He understands what it takes to get to the next level. I think playing with (Moncton head coach) Ted Nolan last year was good for him.
"He's worked extremely hard each summer, he's worked on his skating, he's worked on his strength and he knows how to score."
The Oilers drafted Goulet after a 14-point, six-goal season with the Quebec Remparts. He was traded to the Wildcats the following year where he increased his goal tally to 22.
Last year he more than doubled that, playing two fewer games in the regular season.
"I have to be honest, I was a little surprised with my numbers," Goulet said. "I didn't have any specific goals heading into the season. I guess that was a good thing. I had some good linemates, they fed me the puck well and I was able to put it in."
Goulet had four points in the Memorial Cup tournament, but was shut out in the final as the Remparts - coached by Patrick Roy - defeated the host Wildcats 6-2 in the final.
"It's too bad we lost in the finals of the Mem Cup," Goulet said. "It was a great experience and I think that helped me become a better hockey player."
This year, Goulet has his sights set on beginning a professional career as he tries to earn a spot on one of the Oilers' affiliate clubs.
He still has a year of junior eligibility, but would rather play in the American Hockey League this year.
"Patience is going to be a big thing with him," Prendergast said.
"His skating has got to get a little bit better to play at the NHL level, but he's got all the basic ingredients to be an NHL player.
"He's got a pro mentality. He just works at everything we tell him to work on and he just gets better at it. We have to bring him along at the right pace and when the opportunity presents itself he has to take it."
As a goal-scorer in junior, Goulet knows the pressure is on to continue that through the pro ranks.
Not a lot of players score 50 in junior hockey. Even fewer go on to duplicate that in the NHL.
"I don't put too much pressure on myself," he said. "I'll take whatever ice time they are going to give me, go where they want me to go and when I'm on the ice I'll try to do my best to play my game.
"I have to improve my defensive play, skating, my quick feet and maybe work on my physical play. I'll try to focus on those things and hopefully it goes my way."
BEAR ESSENTIALS: Goulet and the rest of the Oilers rookies will face the University of Alberta Golden Bears in their annual exhibition game today (7 p.m.) at Clare Drake Arena.