With his size and skill, Hudson Fasching never fit in with kids his own age. The man-child was already 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds at age 15. It didn't make sense to play against significantly smaller peers, so Fasching always moved up a few leagues to play with older kids.
He's finally got a chance to be the old guy. He's taking it.
Fasching, who turns 20 this month, will be an upperclassman at the University of Minnesota. Though he has the size to go pro with the Sabres, he never wavered on returning to school for his junior season.
"It was about being an experienced player," the right winger said in First Niagara Center. "I've never really been a more experienced player on any team I've ever been on. Growing up, I was always the youngest kid on the team. I kind of fit into that role. I never really grew to understand leadership and how to really fulfill that.
"For me this year, it's kind of about growing not only as a player but also as a player and a person."
Fasching, who at 6-2 and 216 pounds looks like a real-life Thor compared to the younger teens in the Buffalo's development camp, also has a lot left to prove in college. He experienced a small dip in numbers during his second season (14 goals and 30 points as freshman, 12 and 26 as a sophomore), and it helped contribute to a subpar season for the perennial contender.
The Gophers lost the NCAA championship game during Fasching's freshman year, but they got knocked out easily in the first round this spring.
"We kind of had that sour taste in our mouth from the national championship game of the previous year, and we just couldn't get rid of it," Fasching said. "It was in the back of our minds, and we couldn't really turn the page and move on.
"That's something I want to go back to my junior year here and be able to turn the page, have a fresh start, make sure we're getting back to the basics, make sure our team is working hard, progressing. We became content in my last year at Minnesota as a team, and we never pushed ourselves to get better. That was one of our issues.
"College hockey still has stuff to offer for me."