Hearts manager Craig Levein hoped Callumn Morrison would come good this season, but admits he has been delighted with the level of performance from the winger.
The 19-year-old, who signed a new three-year contract last month, has made 12 competitive outings so far this term, starting three of the last four.
Morrison has impressed in a start to the campaign that has seen the Tynecastle outfit go five points clear at the Premiership summit and reach the Betfred Cup semi-final.
The high of being part of a team that is leading the top-flight is a far cry to what Morrison experienced at the tail end of last term after spending four months on loan at hapless Brechin City, who failed to win a single Championship game during the entire season.
Morrison is expected to keep his place in the side for Sunday’s eagerly-anticipated trip to Rangers and Levein insists the teenager is heading in the right direction.
He said: “We didn’t sign another player in that position specifically because towards the tail end of last season he was doing well, pre-season he did well and we were always of the opinion we’d give him the opportunity.
“If it didn’t look like he would be able to fulfil the role then we’d look to get someone else.
“But right from pre-season he has done well enough and he got a new contract a few weeks back because of what he’s done in pre-season and the early matches.
“It’s not an unexpected bonus but his form is a bonus.”
The trip to Ibrox is expected to come too soon for playmaker Sean Clare although Levein admits the former Sheffield Wednesday player is making good progress in his bid to achieve match fitness.
Clare became the 18th summer arrival when he joined last month following the expiry of his contract with the Owls.
The 22-year-old underwent ankle surgery at the end of last season and Levein hopes he will soon be able to call on the versatile midfielder.
Levein said: “He has had two screws put in his foot and he has done loads of work.
“We are trying not to rush him, all those different movements which he has not been doing up until this point puts pressure on the injury.
“We want to make sure we don’t overload him and set him back.
“The club is in the fortunate position just now where there is not a need to rush him in.
“I have other players who are also capable of playing there.”