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Collegiate additions bolster Sabres down stretch

Hudson Fasching, Casey Nelson to make NHL debuts Saturday

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The Buffalo Sabres have a new look to their roster late in the season with the additions of forward Hudson Fasching and defenseman Casey Nelson, who will make their NHL debuts Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets (1 p.m. ET; TSN3, BELL TV, MSG-B, NHL.TV).

Fasching recently completed his junior season at the University of Minnesota, and Nelson finished his junior season at Minnesota State University, but their roads to the Sabres were distinctly different.

Fasching, who set career highs in goals (20), assists (18) and points (38) in 37 games this season for the Gophers, signed an entry-level contract with Buffalo on Monday and practiced with the Sabres for the first time Thursday.

"It was exciting, really exciting," Fasching said. "A little bit of nerves out there, but you know, all in all it was a fun day and it was good to be on the ice with all the guys."

Fasching (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) was a fourth-round pick (No. 118) in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, but was traded to the Sabres on March 5, 2014, in a package with forward Nicolas Deslauriers for defenseman Brayden McNabb.

"I think it's a little bit missing in the game today; you don't see that big power forward in the game as much as you would before," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "The toughness element aside, you're looking at a guy like Rick Tocchet; you're looking at a power forward-type of guy. You're looking at a Keith Tkachuk who's a power forward; a presence at the net. We don't have a lot of that in the game today. [Fasching] is stepping out of college and still in the development portion of his game and where he's going to fit in, but that's something you look to possibly see in a guy that size who can skate that well and possibly be a force at the net."

Fasching, 20, will graduate from Minnesota this summer.

Nelson is three years older than Fasching but is going through the same process after the collegiate free agent signed an entry-level contract Tuesday.

"[I was a] late bloomer, very late bloomer," Nelson said. "I kind of had to fight my way through each step here and I'm excited for this one."

Nelson was named Western College Hockey Association Defensive Player of the Year this season after he had six goals and 16 assists in 40 games with the Mavericks. His plus-15 rating was a team high.

"My freshman year I was kind of thrown in pretty early, couldn't handle it," Nelson said. "I was out of the lineup for a while there my freshman year, but my sophomore and junior years, those were my first plus plus-minus years of my career."

Nelson is 6-2, 182 pounds, which doesn't make him a physically imposing defenseman, but Bylsma said Nelson's skating was the best part of his game and that's something that should help him adjust to the speed of the NHL.

"I really like the way he skated, liked the way he moved and with confidence," Bylsma said. "His hockey card reads 6-1 or 6-2 and I don't know how much they say he weighs, I think he's 180, but yesterday and today on the ice [he] looks a lot bigger than that and it's really because of the way he skates and how well he skates, and that's something that's a big attribute to his game."

Fasching cycled with Cal O'Reilly on the fourth line alongside David Legwand and Matt Moulson at practice Thursday and again Friday. Nelson was most often paired with Carlo Colaiacovo and got some reps on the penalty kill. 

"I was just really excited to be [in Buffalo] and be a part of this program, so I think that's one of the major pulls," Fasching said. "I think from the standpoint of just my game, I just felt that I think I was ready. I got a lot out of college hockey and I think that from a development perspective, making the jump [to the NHL] was kind of the best option for me to develop my game and continue to get better and to grow."

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