With Hudson Fasching in the fold thanks to a newly minted entry-level contract, Sabres fans are wondering what to expect when the 6-foot-2, 216-pound right wing makes his professional debut.
At a high level, Fasching proved his worth as a legitimate NHL prospect by developing a man’s game in his final season of collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota.
This isn't a flashy player who consistently posts highlight reel plays, but rather a smart, diligent worker at both ends of the ice who can drive the possession game and create chaos in front of the opposing goal. The bundle of skills saw the powerful forward post career highs of 20 goals and 38 points this season for a Golden Gophers squad that captured the Big Ten Hockey Conference regular-season title.
Fasching has the pro-ready frame and puck control skills that see him win the majority of his board battles and make him tough to defend with the puck on his stick. He is especially effective beneath the goal line, where he jams the radar, forces turnovers, and causes major issues for defenders trying to knock him off the puck.
His greatest offensive zone attribute, though, is his ability to be a major goal-area presence, especially on the power play. He is immoveable at the edge of the crease, taking away the goalie’s vision with excellent screens, while tipping pucks and swatting rebounds for goals with keen hand-eye coordination.
On the other side of special teams, Fasching has shown to be an excellent penalty killer with his long stick and blue-collar mentality. He’s a detail-oriented player, which makes him a very reliable worker when down a man.
While he isn't "mean" by nature, Fasching competes hard every single shift and isn’t shy about finishing through the body on every check. In a world where the saying “forecheck, backcheck, paycheck” is used with regularity, Fasching will certainly earn his keep as a hard-working, effort player who never rounds off his turns.
A couple of details come to mind that have been positive drivers to Fasching’s development as an elite-level player.
For starters, players can have all the talent in the world, but it means little if there isn’t character beneath it all. Fasching, an older brother to two siblings stricken with a mitochondrial disorder that does not allow them to walk or speak, has it in spades after spending hours and hours in hospitals as a youngster, along the way developing an appreciation for the gifts he was given in life.
Secondly, Fasching’s on-ice development was boosted by hours of work on the Olympic-sized ice surface at Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. Playing on the larger sheet forced him to generate greater footspeed and place an emphasis on his skill game. The work has paid dividends when applying his craft to the smaller NHL-sized rinks.
Since arriving at Minnesota, Fasching was laser focused on improving his acceleration and overall quickness. With his strength on the puck, the sharper movements have made him even more potent around the edge. He’ll work the cycle down low and quickly get from beneath the goal line to his spot at the edge of the crease. His crisp stops and starts prove efficient in the defensive zone as well, giving the Sabres a big man who can maintain position among the world’s top skaters.
Prior to joining the University of Minnesota, Fasching graduated from the same United States National Team Development Program that groomed current Sabres Jake McCabe and Jack Eichel.
Eichel and Fasching played together for the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based program in 2012-13. In that same season, Fasching appeared in Buffalo for the first-ever USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, where he scored a goal in Team McClanahan’s victory over Team Housley.
Following a stint with the United States at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship (5 GP 2-2-4), Fasching and Eichel again joined forces at the 2015 event, with the power forward capturing three points (1+2) in the tournament’s five games.
How the Sabres coaching staff intends to use Fasching remains to be seen, but regardless, they’re getting a mature young man that can be plugged anywhere in the lineup, potentially in support of speedy, high-skill linemates who will benefit from his net-front presence.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.