Despite the disappointment of missing the playoffs for the second straight year, not everything was negative about the Buffalo Sabres‘ 2013 NHL season. One of the positive aspects has been the amount of playing time some of their young prospects have gotten with the big club. Defenseman Mark Pysyk is one such prospect.
Pysyk was the Sabres’ first round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and was ranked as one of the top North American prospects. Pysyk is known for his high hockey IQ and his skills to skate with and pass the puck, which made him a clear target for the Sabres’ style of play that requires defensemen to start the break and often jump into the offensive fray. His lack of size at 6-1 and aggression hurts his ceiling as a defender but his offensive skills do make him an exciting prospect.
This season marked Pysyk’s first taste of NHL action after being called up in mid-March. He started off slow as well, not registering a single point throughout the month and his overall play soon saw his ice time diminish greatly. Head coach Ron Rolston’s plan to play Pysyk less motivated him to scoring his first two NHL points, two assists, in wins over the Pittsburgh Penguinsand Ottawa Senators — the two games that Pysyk played the least at the beginning of April.
Rolston and GM Darcy Regier must have seen something they liked because they traded two starting defensemen near the trade deadline in order to open up the defensive rotation. Since the first two games of April, Pysyk has been averaging roughly eighteen minutes of ice time a game. Within the past week he has also scored his first NHL goal and two assists to bring his season point total up to five.
It remains to be seen what the Sabres’ future looks like. It has been evident for the past few seasons that the innovative system that former head coach Lindy Ruff developed during the season-long lockout earlier in the 2000s is no longer a viable system of play, or at least it is not viable as currently constructed. The Sabres’ problem has also been a wealth of offensive defensemen and a dearth of defensemen with size and strong defensive capabilities, which Pysyk is not and most likely never will be.
Still, Pysyk is only twenty one years old and a pretty exciting prospect. If the Sabres continue to rebuild the team look for players like Andrej Sekera to be moved before Pysyk. Pysyk still needs some time to grow his game but he has shown some flashes of a promising future if he can continue to mature his offensive game and add some more bulk to his frame.