University of Minnesota freshman forward Hudson Fasching is no stranger to any tempo or style on the ice.
He can play fast or a physically demanding role as a top-line playmaker or third-line grinder. That's precisely why the versatile Fasching was an attractive option as an energy-type forward for the United States at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Golden Gophers coach Don Lucia, who also coached the U.S. at the WJC, likes the pace and aggressiveness with which Fasching competes.
"He's a point-a-game guy [with Minnesota] and they're all 5-on-5, so he's had his success 5-on-5," Lucia said.
At 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, the 2013 fourth-round pick (No. 118) of the Los Angeles Kings has the size to get to the front of the net along with the skill to score from anywhere. Both traits were on display during an exhibition game against Minnesota State University in Mankato just 10 days before the start of the WJC in Malmo, Sweden.
Fasching scored a sensational overtime goal after taking a pass in stride through the neutral zone, breaking to the net and bulling his way in at 3:14 to give the U.S. a 3-2 victory.
The goal prompted Lucia to offer the following:
"I said his coach would play him more if he could make moves like that," Lucia said with a grin.
Fact is, Lucia is playing Fasching every chance he gets and the youngster, affectionately labeled "Thor" by teammates for his flowing blonde hair and good looks, has produced. In 22 games for the No. 1-ranked Golden Gophers (17-2-3), Fasching has six goals, 17 points and a plus-16 rating.
Hudson Fasching's versatility is why he earned a spot on the United States' 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship roster. (Photo: University of Minnesota Athletics)
While he didn't register a point, Fasching did generate two shots on goal Jan. 17 in a 1-0 victory against Big Ten rival Ohio State in the Hockey City Classic at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Despite playing outdoors in 6-degree weather, the game attracted 45,021 fans, the largest attendance for a hockey game in the state of Minnesota.
His most memorable college experience, however, came in a weekend sweep of the University of Wisconsin on Nov. 29-30. Minnesota scored a 4-1 victory in the opener and a 4-3 win the following day. Fasching didn't register a point in either game but remained active and had quality scoring chances.
"Growing up watching the Gophers, the games against Wisconsin were always very big," Fasching said. "We were so pumped heading into those games and got two wins without even needing overtime. There was a full house for both games [at Mariucci Arena] and the crowd was really into it."
Fasching, who majors in the school of management, spent the past two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., prior to joining the Golden Gophers. He had 11 goals and 36 points with the U.S. Under-18 Team last season.
"Being able to play college teams [in 2012-13] was huge as a member of the NTDP," Fasching said. "On top of that the weight training and coaching were unbelievable."
He skated for Apple Valley (Minn.) High School as a freshman and sophomore, and had 18 goals and 50 points in 28 games during his final prep season in 2010-11 while playing alongside Gophers teammate A.J. Michaelson.
"One of the most fun things you could do is play high school hockey; growing up with your buddies you played with your whole life and playing with them through high school is a great experience," he said.
Fasching acknowledged Lucia has put him in a position to succeed in his first collegiate season and he doesn't want to disappoint.
"He's been able to put me in a place where I can use all of my attributes," Fasching said. "Having [Kyle] Rau, [Sam] Warning and now [Taylor] Cammarata as linemates has really benefitted me. They are older guys and fantastic, highly skilled players.
"It's a bit of change in the program. We're skilled but there are times when we have to grind it out as well, and playing with the highly skilled guys makes it easier for me. I can complement them, get them the puck in the corners and they generate a lot of shots so it works well."
He was also given an opportunity to succeed at the WJC as a third-line right wing alongside left wing Stefan Matteau (New Jersey Devils) and center Andrew Copp (Winnipeg Jets).
"It was a different role for me than in Minnesota but a lot of fun to be a part of," Fasching said. "It was fun to play with bigger guys, go in there, bang bodies and make plays."
Still, Fasching was disappointed with his team's fifth-place finish.
"I think the goals we allowed to Russia during their back-to-back 5-on-3 power plays just killed us [in the quarterfinal round]," Fasching said. "We had a 3-2 lead and momentum in the second and took some penalties; one that may have been a bad call.
"Our 5-on-3 penalty kill is not something you practice very often in a tournament like that, so I don't think we were really versed into what needed to be done and it ended up costing us. It was a tough way to go out. Russia played heavy defense after those goals and we couldn't create after that."
Fasching said it wasn't at all strange or uncomfortable having his college coach behind the bench at the WJC.
"Everything was on a pro level with him; it went smooth," he said. "He coached us really well but got unlucky with those penalties. There was a comfort level for me having him as coach. We had similar systems and a familiar coaching style, so it was an easy transition."