There's nothing like a little experience to inspire great beginnings.
For both Brady Shaw and Cameron Marks, this year's expectations as members of the Coquitlam Express are grounded despite separate routes and different roles.
But the two share a similar bond - each had a cup of coffee last year as members of the Penticton Vees, the B.C. Hockey League club that rode roughshod past the opposition to a Royal Bank Cup crown - that could provide a piece to the puzzle.
Shaw, who emerged last year as a talented sniper on the Express' top line, was discarded by Penticton early in the season. Marks, meanwhile, got into a pair of games as an affiliate and enjoyed his first taste of junior A.
The two now are teammates, working at different ends of the ice but sharing the common goal of helping Coquitlam be the team that others chase.
"It's never easy coming in to a new team, trying to find chemistry and having new linemates and stuff," said Shaw of his arrival in the Lower Mainland last year. "[Coach Jon Calvano] made it pretty easy on me by shuffling the lines and seeing what worked."
Shaw's skills fit well with fellow junior A rookies Alexander Kerfoot and John Siemer, and the trio emerged as one of the most electrifying lines in the league.
Getting cut by Penticton after just two games wasn't the stinging experience you'd expect.
"I look at it differently. Obviously they went on to win a national championship, which would have been pretty cool, but if I had stayed there I don't think I would have had the opportunity that I got here," said Shaw, 19.
With Coquitlam, the six-foot-two winger finished with 33 goals and 36 assists in 57 games, including 15 powerplay tallies.
For 17-year-old Marks, who plays a puck movement game from the blueline, last year's taste just whetted his appetite for a new season, and one based closer to home.
"It was just a great experience, very high tempo," recalled Marks. "I got quite a bit of ice and I expected a couple of shifts each period but I was rolling out with the D-men. I liked the tempo last year and I'm pretty sure I can play with these guys."
That's the kind of talk that pleases the Express coaching staff, which has a bounty of returning veterans - like Shaw, Kerfoot, Siemer and goalie Cole Huggins - who could be forecasted to excel in a second season in the circuit. There is also a healthy handful of freshmen vying for roles, like Marks, Marc Biega and Cal Hofford, that bring some key energy to the picture.
Will all the parts come together and be on the same page when the regular season is slated to kick off Sept. 7 with the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack?
"My main goal is just to find my game, to keep playing based off of last year," said Shaw. "I thought I ended the season well heading into the playoffs but struggled a bit in the playoffs. I want to find my stride heading into the season, be physical and try to put some pucks in the net."
Marks spent much of last year with the Vancouver Northwest Giants of the B.C. Major Midget League, posting one goal and 16 assists in 25 games. He considers his prime strengths as positional and moving the puck forward.
"It's just [about] making good decisions, that's about it because you have very little time," said Marks. "I would describe myself as a Nick Lidstrom. Like Nick I'm a shutdown D-man and I can play powerplay minutes, join the rush and put up points."
As intangibles go, Shaw brings an element that most hockeyloving kids can only dream of. His father, former NHL defenceman Brad Shaw, played 377 games with Hartford, Ottawa, Washington and St. Louis before moving behind the bench.
He's currently the associate coach with Ken Hitchcock with the Blues.
Shaw's mom, Mary, wrote a series of books titled Brady-Brady about a five-year-old hockey-obsessed boy and his adventures.
As a youth, the unwanted celebrity factor from the published stories was the last thing a teenager wanted, he admitted.
"Growing up in grades 7 and 8 you'd get teased for it at times and I'd be pretty upset, but looking back on it now it's pretty cool. Not many people can say that there's a book series written about you," said Shaw.
Coquitlam kicked off its exhibition schedule on Aug. 25 with a 2-2 tie against Chilliwack. The club followed that deadlock with another stalemate one day later, this time tying Surrey 44. The Express rounded out their preseason schedule with a 7-4 loss to Langley; a 5-4 overtime win over Chilliwack; a 4-2 loss to Surrey and a 5-2 win over the Simon Fraser University team.
The regular season kicks off this weekend with the BCHL's Showcase Event at Chilliwack's Prospera Centre.
Coquitlam takes on Victoria on Friday at 4 p.m. before matching up against Cowichan Valley on Sunday at 2 p.m.
For info about tickets for home games, call 604-936-4625.