BUFFALO – When Hudson Fasching chose to play his junior season instead of signing with the Sabres, the winger said the opportunity to develop leadership skills enticed him back for another year at the University of Minnesota.
In his final NCAA campaign, Fasching, 20, served as one of four alternate captains on a team with only three seniors. Golden Gophers coach Don Lucia also leaned on Fasching more than ever, utilizing the 6-foot-2, 216-pound power forward in every role.
“I think that really helped him in his development,” Lucia said by phone Tuesday. “We kind of planned for him to be a three-year guy, get him through school. So it couldn’t have worked out any better for him or us.”
After scoring a career-high 20 goals and 38 points in only 37 games in 2015-16, Fasching signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Sabres on Monday, two days after his season ended.
“You take a little bit more pride in the fact we had a plan for Hudson and he came in and executed the plan and did everything he needed to do on his end of things, and now he’s ready to move onto the next level,” Lucia said.
Fasching will likely practice this morning inside the First Niagara Center. The Minnesota native could make his NHL debut Saturday afternoon at home against the Winnipeg Jets.
A season full of responsibility and growth should help Fasching acclimate to hockey’s highest level.
“I think it was an important year for him,” Lucia said. “The consistency factor, he had his best year offensively, and that was where his game needed to grow.”
Minnesota struggled early this season, losing seven of its first 11 games before finishing 20-17. Two straight overtime wins against Ohio State University – Fasching scored the winner Dec. 4 and assisted the next night – helped ignite the Gophers.
“It was a struggle for us at times, and when you’re leading and your team’s not winning, sometimes you put a little of that burden on yourself,” Lucia said. “(Fasching) became more comfortable as a leader. All of a sudden, his offense took off around Dec. 1 and our team played a whole lot better once he got going from an offensive standpoint.”
Maturity, no doubt, helped Fasching morph into a leader.
“I’ve always said you win with world-class people, and that’s what Hudson is,” Lucia said. “He’s a guy you want on your team. He’s a guy you want in your locker room, because it’s all about the team for him. It’s not about the individual.”
He added: “I think the fans (in Buffalo) are going to like the type of player he is and they’re going to like the type of person he is even more.”
The Sabres acquired Fasching on March 5, 2014 from Los Angeles with winger Nick Deslauriers for defenseman Brayden McNabb and two second-round picks, just months after the Kings selected him in the fourth round, 118th overall.
By the time the Sabres received his rights, an outstanding freshman season – Fasching has said he had to become a power forward – had helped him develop into a notable prospect.
“It was a consistency factor, and sometimes when you’re younger and are able to do it as a skill player, that’s how you perceive you have to play every night,” Lucia said about Fasching entering college. “As we all know … you have to learn to play other ways, especially for someone with his size and strength, getting him to understand, ‘No, you can’t be that cute player, you’ve got to be a power player,’ and when he played the power game, that’s when he’s at his best.”