For Mason Raymond, it was a matter of when and not if.
The when came yesterday afternoon, as the parent Vancouver Canucks dispatched the speedy winger to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.
And truth be told, Raymond is exactly where he needs to be -- despite the obvious disappointment he is feeling after being sent down for the first time in his young career.
"I expected to stay," said Raymond, who joined the Moose late last season after two outstanding seasons with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs of the NCAA. "Obviously, there's still a lot more work to be done. You come back here, get a bunch of ice (time) and you can never go wrong with that. I'm hoping to be a go-to guy here and put some points on the board.
"I want to come in here and produce. I'm looked to do that and that's what I expect out of myself."
Raymond created quite a buzz during his first training camp with the Canucks, earning praise from the time he stepped on the ice for prospects camp to the day he nailed down one of the final roster spots for opening night.
As important as it was for the Canucks to throw Raymond a bone and reward him for a job well done, it's even more critical for them to send him back to the AHL where he'll play a pivotal role for the Moose.
Raymond, the Canucks second-round pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, has tremendous talent and will probably have an excellent career at the next level but he's not quite ready to be a regular right now.
He needs to learn the intricacies of becoming a professional and get used to the grind of playing an 80-game schedule.
This is the perfect environment for him to grow -- or grow up -- in.
"If you look at his progression, from the Alberta Junior League to the NCAA to 11 games in the AHL to the NHL, things are happening quick," said Canucks assistant general manager Steve Tambellini. "I'm not saying he won't have a chance to play more games in the NHL (this year) but it's also very important for him to be a go-to person at this level. For a guy like him who is a skilled player, you have to be out there (on the ice) all the time."
The good news for Raymond is that his first pro season is off to a fine start.
The 22-year-old did enough to earn a spot with the big club and the Canucks coaches saw enough potential in the Calgary product to give him a shot on a line with the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik.
Raymond even collected his first NHL point in the Canucks opener against the San Jose Sharks and managed six shots on goal in three games.
But his ice time had begun to diminish -- Raymond had just 12 shifts for 7:37 on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers -- which made this the perfect time for him to be sent down.
Raymond made an impact upon his arrival in Winnipeg last season, immediately turning heads with his blazing speed.
Although he was eased into the lineup, it didn't take Raymond long to earn the trust of head coach Scott Arniel.
Raymond was soon taking a regular shift and even saw some power-play time.
He had two goals and four points in 11 games, but while he continued to produce some scoring chances, Raymond had just one assist in 13 Calder Cup playoff games.
"It was nice to be able to get some games in here to see what it's like at this level," said Raymond, who added about . "I'm not coming in blind."