There was little doubt Dion Phaneuf would make an impact with the Calgary Flames this season after coach Darryl Sutter called him the top defenceman in the Western Hockey League in 2003-04.
The 20-year-old has come as advertised, packaging a hard-hitting style and good mobility with a booming shot and the poise of a seasoned veteran.
Phaneuf, who is among the NHL leaders in hits, sits tied with Al MacInnis for third place all-time among rookie Flames rearguards with 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists) this season.
If he finds the net Wednesday night against visiting Phoenix, Phaneuf would break Gary Suter's franchise record for goals by a rookie defenceman. He's also close to becoming only the third rookie blue-liner in league history to reach 20 goals.
The Edmonton native has scored 16 times on the powerplay, while his six game-winning goals have left him tied with Toronto's Bryan McCabe for the NHL lead among blue-liners.
"He's right at the top of his class, there's no question," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said of Phaneuf earlier in the season. "He's going to be a star."
While Phaneuf's name has been mentioned among the NHL's elite defencemen throughout the season, he isn't considered a favourite to be named the best rookie at the position.
The Calder Trophy is probably the furthest thing from Phaneuf's mind as he tries to help Calgary secured a division title.
The Flames, who sit atop the Northwest with a record of 42-24-9, need five points to clinch a playoff berth.
"We have seven games left, 14 points, and if we win, we take care of our own destiny," forward Shean Donovan told Calgary reporters.
The Flames' three-game winning streak ended with a 2-1 shootout loss Monday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
Calgary has won seven of its last nine games and is on an impressive 8-2-1 run in the past 10 games at home.
"Detroit got off to a great start for our [Western] conference, so we won't catch them, but the division title would be a nice thing, for home-ice advantage in the first series," said Flames defenceman Bryan Marchment.
"You look back to two years ago [when Calgary played Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup finals], home-ice advantage for the guys in this room would have been huge."
The Flames will welcome back defenceman Jordan Leopold, who has missed the last three games due to a groin injury.
Former Coyotes centre Jamie Lundmark, who had an eye injury, practised for the first time on Tuesday but is questionable, as is winger Darren McCarty, who was injured in the groin, and blue-liner Rhett Warrener. Forwards Mike Leclerc, who damaged his wrist, and Marcus Nilson, with a hurt knee, are out.
Like Calgary, Phoenix also had a three-game winning streak halted Monday in Edmonton, losing 7-1.
The Coyotes are last in the Pacific Division at 36-35-4, 11 points back of Vancouver and the eighth and final playoff spot.
Goaltender Curtis Joseph allowed six goals on 25 shots in two periods against the Oilers before being replaced by David LeNeveu at the start of the third period.
Phoenix, which is 18-18-1 away from Glendale Arena this season, will complete a four-game swing in Calgary.
The Coyotes hold a 2-1 edge in the season series but have dropped seven of the last nine meetings.
Former Flames centre Steve Reinprecht was named the NHL's offensive player of the week on Monday after collecting seven points (5-2-7) in three games.
Coyotes winger Ladislav Nagy (knee surgery) is out of the season, while forward Dave Scatchard (flu) is day-to-day.
Calgary plays host to the Minnesota Wild on Friday at 9 p.m. ET.