With his size and skill, Hudson Fasching never fit in with kids his 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 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.”
Jack Eichel casts a big shadow. Evan Rodrigues’ biggest chore is stepping out of it to prove he can play on his own.
After three quiet seasons at Boston University (21 goals and 39 assists in 115 games), Rodrigues exploded as a senior while playing on Eichel’s left wing. Rodrigues put up 21 goals and 40 assists in 41 outings to help the Terriers reach the Frozen Four final.
He signed with the Sabres a few days after the team locked up Eichel through the NHL Draft Lottery, but the 21-year-old says that wasn’t a factor in his decision.
“I actually made up my mind before the lottery even happened,” Rodrigues said. “I knew Buffalo was a good - actually, great - opportunity for me. It felt right in my gut, and I’m happy with my decision.”
While he’s still on Eichel’s wing during camp, Rodrigues showed his individual skill with one of the flashiest shootout goals following Friday’s scrimmage.
“I just want to show everyone that’s in the stands what I’m capable of and what I can do and that I can play at the next level,” Rodrigues said. “The Sabres are making moves and not staying stagnant. They’ve made some big moves that maybe people didn’t expect, but it’s great to see. Hopefully, I can be a part of it.”
With the addition of goaltending coach Andrew Allen, Dan Bylsma has completed his staff. The lineup also features assistant coaches Terry Murray, Dave Barr and Dan Lambert.
The organization’s coaching search is only half done. Bylsma is helping General Manager Tim Murray determine who should coach the minor-league team in Rochester. The process still has a ways to go before completion.
“I don’t think close is the way I would describe it,” Bylsma said. “We’re down the road, not close.”
The Sabres will wrap up the weeklong camp with a three-on-three tournament Sunday. It runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is free to the public.
The fatigue from a long year caught up to Eichel on Friday, but with a day off Saturday he could really show his skills during the wide-open tournament.
“It’s going to be another great experience,” he said. “I’ll just try to do good things, and we’ll see where that goes. Try to finish off the weekend.”