For the first time in his professional hockey career, Jason Jaffray believes he has a legitimate shot to open the season in the NHL.
Even better news is that he might not be the only one who feels that way.
Make no mistake, Jaffray still faces an uphill battle in nailing down a spot on the Vancouver Canucks come the first week of October.
But after making his NHL debut last season, Jaffray figures to be part of the discussion and that's saying something in itself, considering the forward from Olds, Alta., wasn't even invited to stay for main camp back in 2006.
Those days are now light years away for the man who has since become a dominant scoring threat at the American Hockey League level and proven to be a serviceable fill-in at the next level.
"Last year, I knew I had to open some eyes before I was going to get my first shot," Jaffray said during a break from the Manitoba Moose Hockey School being held at the River Heights Community Club this week. "I think I proved I can be a consistent player at that level and they know what they're going to get from me. I'm not going to surprise anybody. I bring the same thing to the table every night.
"I know there are a lot of new faces in Vancouver and I'm going to go there with the mentality that I need to steal a job from somebody."
Jaffray, 27, is coming off a strong season that saw him produce 21 goals and 48 points in 43 games with the Moose and another two goals and six points in 19 NHL contests (during three separate stints) with the Canucks.
Those were the first 19 NHL games of his career and gave Jaffray a huge boost of confidence.
The lone setback for Jaffray was a shoulder injury that knocked him out until late in the first round match-up with the Syracuse Crunch. After signing a two-year, two-way deal with the Canucks in the summer of 2007, Jaffray didn't have to deal with the pressure of being a free agent this off-season.
Now he needs to show Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault and a new management team, led by general manager Mike Gillis, that he's ready to take the next step.
"I've been working on getting into prime shape for when camp comes," said Jaffray.