Last season, Barons forward Philippe Cornet was 20 years old and admittedly a bit overwhelmed playing in the AHL.
Barely out of his teens, Cornet managed seven goals in 60 games last year and didn't even suit up for the playoffs.
Barons coach Todd Nelson wanted a leaner, quicker Cornet returning this season, and the coach got his wish.
Cornet scored two goals Friday night to help lead OKC to a 4-1 victory over Grand Rapids inside the Cox Convention Center.
It was Cornet's second straight two-goal game and his third multi-point game of the young season. In the last three games, Cornet has erupted for five goals.
The Barons (4-1-0), who have now won four straight and remain atop the West Division, face the Griffins again Saturday night at home.
Nelson said one more year of maturity certainly benefitted Cornet, but there's more to it than that.
“He trimmed down a bit. He worked on his legs. He got a bit faster,” Nelson said. “That's one of the things we identified (with Cornet) going into the summer. He had to get that extra gear to pull away from guys. Right now, he's achieved that, and it's paying off for him.”
Nelson was particularly pleased with Cornet's second goal Friday, which came with 15.8 seconds left in the second period. Cornet sped in from the right wing, had his first shot denied out front, got the rebound and in one fluid motion kicked the puck to his stick for a putback goal.
“That's just good, technical hockey,” Nelson said. “He's a smart player. He does everything right out there. He's getting the rewards. He put in a good summer.”
Though Cornet amassed 12 points in the last 10 games last season, he still realized he had shortcomings.
“I think that second goal was probably something I wasn't doing last year — driving to the net and just beating the defenseman one-on-one," Cornet said. “I just wanted to come back here and prove I'm a good player on a regular basis on this team and in this league and make a difference every game. This summer I worked harder than ever on my skating. I feel like it's paying right now.”
Cornet scored 29 goals three years ago, but that was junior hockey. Now he's one step away from the NHL and insists he doesn't have a certain number of goals in mind this season.
“The main thing I was thinking about was getting the first one, because the first one is always hardest to get,” Cornet said. “Once you get the first one, you get on a roll and it goes well. I just don't want to change my game, just keep playing the same way I've been playing.”