A player's first year in professional hockey can be a bit of an adjustment.
For someone coming from juniors or college — where it's a constant balancing act between classes, practice, preparation and games — the relative freedom of being a professional can be a little jarring.
So it helps to have a hobby.
"I've actually been learning how to play the acoustic guitar," Quad-City Mallards forward Keegan Kolesar said. "I'm a big John Mayer fan, City and Colour, Eric Clapton so I wanted to dive into that for a little bit."
Only 20, Kolesar has already had a quick introduction to life as a professional hockey player. He was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Vegas Golden Knights in June, made his pro debut with the Chicago Wolves on Oct. 6, and was assigned to the Mallards on Oct. 10.
Kolesar has made a quick impact with the team, scoring his first career goal and adding two assists in the Mallards' 5-4 win over the Tulsa Oilers on Saturday. He's the team's leading scorer through two games.
"It was huge for sure. I wanted to come down here and make an immediate impact on the game," he said. "Overall I think the players here have given me a lot of confidence and making me be able to make plays."
Kolesar was drafted in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Blue Jackets and had a stellar junior career with the Western Hockey League's Seattle Thunderbirds, compiling 77 goals and 90 assists in 243 games.
Along with his play, Kolesar has also made an impression with his attitude. It can be tough to go through an NHL camp, then an AHL camp and end up down in the ECHL, but Kolesar is clearly making the most of it.
"I don't see a point in pouting about it. I think you can cause yourself more damage than you already are," he said. "I just wanted to come in here with a good mindset and hockey is a team sport. If you're pouting in the locker room, if you have negative vibes, everyone else is going to pick up on it and it kind of brings the team down.
"The main thing for me was not looking at it like a giant set down or setback, it was just an opportunity to play more hockey and get my feet under me."
That attitude has been a big bonus to a Mallards' locker room still in the early stages of growth.
"Guys are putting their body on the line, no 'I shouldn't be here' or anything like that," head coach Phil Axtell said. "It's great for the room. It's great for the environment, it's great for the culture."
Axtell didn't indicate how long Kolesar would stay with the Mallards or if there are plans for him to return to the Wolves for their weekend series against Tuscon. Such is life for an ECHL coach.
"That's what we're here for is to give him minutes, make sure he plays hard and plays smart and get him out of here whenever they call him back," he said.
And while Kolesar continues to grow as a pro, he'll continue to work on learning the guitar, no matter how long it takes.
"I'm a patient guy," he said with a laugh. "It's a good thing I am."
No captain, my captain: The Mallards lost their captain before the season when they were forced to release Chris Francis, who suffered a pre-camp injury and failed to pass his entrance physical.
While the Mallards have to replace his production of 60 points from last season, they aren't yet prepared to replace his leadership with a simple letter.
"I'm not just going to throw a 'C' on someone," Axtell said.
The Mallards skated with three assistant captains over the weekend — Jamie Tardif, Garrett Klotz and Alexander Kuqali. Axtell thinks the team has plenty of character and leadership potential but will wait to see how everything shakes out.
"We've got to figure out who, we might even rotate the 'As' on some guys, see what we've got," Axtell said. "Right now, it's who's going to rise to be the captain? We've got some returners and some new guys who are leaders so we just want to play it out and make the best choice."
Mallards acquire Raskob: The Mallards acquired defenseman Willie Raskob from the Worcester Railers on Tuesday in exchange for cash considerations. Raskob, 22, picked up an assist in his professional debut with the Railers last Saturday.
He scored four goals and added 13 assists for 17 points in 41 games, helping the University of Minnesota-Duluth reach the NCAA title game.
Axtell expects Raskob to help out player-assistant coach Jamie Tardif on the power play but likely won't be available until the weekend.
"Tards is running the power play and he needs a right-handed defenseman on the power play," Axtell said. "We don't have one so we needed one."
Affiliate update: The Mallards' NHL affiliate Vegas Golden Knights started the season 4-1-0 and are in second place in the Pacific Davision with eight points heading into Tuesday's game with the Buffalo Sabres. The team's AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves have started 1-1-1 and are in fifth place in the Central Division with three points.
This week: The Mallards get a pair of rematches right out of the gate as they take on the two teams they faced opening weekend.
Tonight the Mallards host the Tulsa Oilers at 6:30 at the TaxSlayer Center. The Mallards beat the Oilers 5-4 last Saturday.
This Saturday the Mallards travel to Toledo to take on the Walleye at the Huntington Center at 6:15 p.m. The Mallards dropped their first game of the season 3-2 to the Walleye last week.