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30 in 15: Pysyk could be future of Sabres' defense

by Davis Harper / continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

There's an overhaul taking place in Buffalo, and youth is the word of the day. With the Sabres parting with so many veterans, the roster threatens to push young players too far too fast.

One prospect coach Ron Rolston and the Sabres aren't worried about, however, is Mark Pysyk. That's because the 21-year-old defenseman has some NHL experience, 19 games at the end of last season.

"I think in terms of our young guys is Mark Pysyk, who came up at the end of last year and showed up," Rolston said when asked about players who excite him heading into training camp. "I know he had a great summer and he's a really mature player and person. I think he's going to be real good for us."

Buffalo's first-round pick (No. 23) at the 2010 NHL Draft, Pysyk won't fill the stat sheet but could be a solid, consistent player the Sabres could build a defensive unit around over the next few seasons. At the time of his call-up last season, Pysyk had a plus-8 rating that led the Rochester Americans, the Sabres' American Hockey League team. The 6-foot-1, 193-pound player transitioned well to the NHL when he entered the lineup March 17, playing the rest of the season with one goal and four assists.

"Last year he was, on a nightly basis, one of our better defensemen down the stretch," Rolston said. "He has a lot of play to his game, plays a real mature game, moves the puck well, and as he gains more confidence he's going to be even more of a threat offensively for us."

His intangibles are impressive. Looking for leadership? From 2010-12, Pysyk captained his junior team, the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, leading them to the WHL title in 2011-12. How about big-game ability? Pysyk scored in his first professional game, Oct. 12, 2012 with Rochester.

The organization's affection for Pysyk was apparent in the initial training camp pairings, when Rolston put him in the first pairing with veteran Henrik Tallinder. At 34, Tallinder has a pedigree for helping young Sabres defensemen transition to the NHL in big ways. In 2009-10 he was paired with 19-year-old Tyler Myers, and Myers won that season's Calder Trophy.

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