Hudson Fasching knows just how lucky he is. Lucky to be a highly skilled hockey player. Lucky to be considered a top prospect for the 2013 NHL Draft.
He also knows how lucky he is just to be able to get out of bed every morning.
Fasching, 17, is the oldest of three children, but the only one able to care for himself. His younger brother Cooper, 14, and sister Mallory, 13, each suffer from a mitochondrial disease, which leaves them unable to walk or speak, and they require around-the-clock medical care.
"I just am very grateful for what I have," Fasching told NHL.com. "I feel like I'm very lucky. It was a statistical thing, a one-in-four chance that they would contract the disease or the genes ended up the way they have. I'm just really lucky that I have all the gifts I've been given as a person, and I work that much harder every day to work for them because they can't do that.
"It's something that only I can do. Sometimes I feel like I took all the good genes. I want to do everything I can to make my family proud and do the best I can."
He's done a good job of that during his two seasons with the United States National Team Development Program. In 57 games this season, the 6-foot-1.75, 213-pound right wing has 11 goals and 18 assists. He'll play for the United States at the 2013 World Under-18 Championship in Russia, and earlier this season played for the United States at the Five Nations Tournament and for Team McClanahan at the inaugural All-American Prospect Game in September.
Nearly half of Fasching's games came against older competition in the United States Hockey League, and in 25 games he has four goals and seven assists.
"I think Hudson is a very interesting player," NHL Network analyst Craig Button told NHL.com. "When you're younger and you're bigger and you're stronger, you're able to do some things. You come into the [USNTDP] program and you're sometimes trying to use those same things. Playing in the USHL is a big step up for a young man like that. All of a sudden you have to find ways not to just let your size overwhelm people.
"That's the development path that Hudson is on now, using his skills along with his size to impact the game. I think it was a little weighted too much more to the size. You can't blame somebody like that, it's a huge advantage. But I think the biggest thing when I watch Hudson now, you see him thinking. He's not just driving the net, he's waiting patiently. That's what you want to see with young players. You want to see that development."
Part of that development is credited to Fasching's father, Rick, who got his son started in hockey at a rink near the family home in Burnsville, Minn.
"My dad got me interested in hockey when I was 5 years old," Fasching said. "I was actually too young to start hockey, but he just brought me [to the rink], signed me up and nobody said anything, just threw me on the ice said go have fun out there. It just took off from there."
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Fasching climbed the local hockey rankings and eventually earned a spot with the USNTDP under-17 team. It was a wonderful opportunity, but Fasching wasn't ready to just go out on his own.
For one thing, it meant moving away from home to the USNTDP headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., at 16. It also meant an increased burden on his parents, Rick and Shannon, who provide the majority of the care for Cooper and Mallory, with assistance from visiting nurses.
"[Hudson] could do near anything a nurse could do with Cooper and Mallory," Rick told USA Hockey magazine. "He knew how to feed, how to give them medicine. The nice part was -- and remember, he's a teenager -- not once in the 15 years did he ever complain. Not a once. To me, as a parent, those are the things that make it special."
As tough as it was, Fasching decided leaving would be the best thing if he wanted to progress in his hockey career.
"It was a tough decision," he said, "but when it came down to my development as a player, I figured this was the best opportunity for me to develop as a player [and] as a person. To move away from home was a big step for me, but I think it definitely was a good one I needed to take."
The results show he made the right decision. Two solid seasons with the USNTDP -- he had 36 points in 54 games last season with the U-17 team -- earned him the No. 42 spot in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings of players eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft.
"I think he's got some real promise," an NHL scout from an Eastern Conference team told NHL.com. "He's one of those typical guys who's a man-child and his skills have to evolve to catch up to his physical tools."
USNTDP U-18 coach Don Granato has had a front-row seat for the latest steps in Fasching's evolution.
"He's a power forward with very soft hands," Granato told NHL.com. "Very good hands in tight and around the net. … He's very instinctive about using the body to shield and protect pucks [going] to the net. He's slippery even though he's a big guy. Good offensive and net area instincts."
He'll take that skill set next back home -- to the University of Minnesota, starting in the fall. While almost every hockey-playing kid in Minnesota grows up wanting to play for the Gophers, the fact he'll be about a half-hour drive from his family is significant.
And while Cooper and Mallory can't say how happy they are to have their big brother home, they have their ways of expressing their joy.
"It would be hard to gauge because you don't get a lot of visual reads from them," Rick told USA Hockey Magazine. "They love it when he comes home, though. Their brain doesn't process what they see, so the hearing part is the most important for them. They know Hudson's voice, so they both will get very happy if they get to hear their brother and know he's there."
All of which makes Minnesota the best possible location for Hudson.
"Coming back and being able to play at Minnesota was a big hope of mine," he said. "It's a great program, too, so I get the best of both worlds. And it's a great developer to go to the NHL."
The NHL or the draft isn't at the front of his mind. Right now, he's just focusing on the present.
"I'm just trying to take it one game at a time," he said. "Take it one game at a time and focus on the all the little parts of my game, try not to think too far down the road. Just focus on the simpler pats of my game and go from there."