His rate of improvement was impressive -- almost as though it clicked overnight.
Denis Grebeshkov went from being a project on the Edmonton Oilers' blue-line to one of their most consistent defencemen.
Yesterday the Oilers came to terms with the restricted free agent on a one-year contract worth $3.15 million US.
"We're very happy to have Denis back with us for another season," said Oilers assistant general manager Rick Olczyk.
"We were very happy with his play last year. He showed significant signs of improvement and I think he is going to continue to improve."
Grebeshkov, 25, is coming off his most productive NHL season, scoring seven goals with 32 assists in 72 games.
He also led the team with a plus-12 rating.
Originally acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders for defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron in 2007, Grebeshkov struggled to keep a regular spot in the lineup in his first season with the Oilers.
However, midway through the year the native of Yaroslavl, Russia, found his game, turning into a solid two-way defenceman.
That progression continued last season.
He's gone on to represent Russia at the World Championships, winning a pair of consecutive gold medals. Grebeshkov also played in three world junior championships.
"We weren't too surprised with how well he was able to play last season," Olczyk said. "Our scouts liked him and knew he had lots of potential."
Grebeshkov was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round --18th overall -- of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He played mainly with the Kings affiliate in Manchester for three seasons before being traded to the Islanders in 2006.
Unable to come to contract terms with the Islanders, he returned to Russia to play the 2006-07 season with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
The following year he joined the Oilers.
With Grebeshkov coming to terms, the Oilers now have their entire defensive group from last season under contract.
"I think our defence will be very solid next season," Olczyk said. "Especially with the return of Lubomir Visnovsky, our blue-line should be very strong."