ROCHESTER – Barely two years ago, Hudson Fasching stood out as one of the Buffalo Sabres’ top prospects. Just days after leaving college, the power forward scored minutes into his NHL debut. Months later, he cracked the big club out of training camp.
Fast forward to today, and Fasching, having just sat out two AHL playoff games as a healthy scratch, might have an iffy future with the Sabres.
After compiling 12 goals and 30 points in 69 regular-season outings with the Americans – in the winter, Fasching endured a 25-game goal drought – he played one playoff game before coach Chris Taylor benched him.
Why did he scratch the youngster? Shortly after the Amerks completed their most successful season in four years, the normally loquacious Taylor wouldn’t explain his surprising decision.
“It’s a decision I made,” Taylor said following Wednesday’s season-ending 6-3 loss to the Syracuse Crunch inside Blue Cross Arena.
When asked again, Taylor said Fasching “could’ve been a little bit just better.”
“I don’t want to be critical of guys right now,” he said. “We just went through a pretty emotional series. We had a great regular season. It’s just a lineup change I decided to make. It might’ve been the wrong one, I don’t know.
“But Hudson had a great year and he’s improved greatly.”
Has Fasching, 22, really improved?
By now, the University of Minnesota product was supposed to be in the NHL or at least a notable AHL scorer, not a scratch for the biggest games of his pro career.
“It was incredibly hard,” Fasching said of sitting out. “Obviously, I want to be out there with the guys I’ve been with all year. I want to battle to the end. It sucks. It’s not my decision, it’s not anything I can control. But, yeah, it’s not fun.”
Fasching said his performance in last Friday’s opener of the best-of-five first-round series, a 6-2 loss in Syracuse, “wasn’t as good as it needed to be.”
“That was kind of the message,” the winger said.
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Fasching possesses plenty of physical tools, although he’s not the fastest skater. The mental grind of a full pro season, however, has been difficult.
“It’s just a mental consistency of always being active and just staying on top of everything day in and day out,” Fasching said. “I think it’s a difficult season, it’s a long year. So it’s just those things I’m trying to focus on, is the mental fortitude and trying to stay with it every day.”
Playing at a high speed and making quicker decisions would also help Fasching, who went pointless in five appearances with the Sabres this season.
“It’s making sure my speed’s up to par all over the ice, making sure I’m making plays quickly,” he said. “It’s not only foot speed, but also just mentally making plays fast and playing the game fast in general. I think that’s definitely something that’s been a recurring theme for me to continue to work on.”
It took a lot for former general manager Tim Murray to pry Fasching from the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. The Sabres traded two second-round picks and defenseman Brayden McNabb in a deal that also netted them winger Nick Deslauriers.
With Fasching struggling and Deslauriers gone, the deal looks bad.
Right now, Fasching’s recent struggles have sapped some of his confidence.
“Sitting out two playoff games doesn’t help that, but I still believe in myself as a player,” he said. “You have to at this point. So that’s definitely where I’m at right now.”