Note: This article is part of a top-ten countdown of the Buffalo Sabres' top prospects. In order to be considered a prospect, the player has to be eligible for the Calder Trophy this season, which means they cannot have played more than 25 games in the NHL in any season prior. This removes Corey Tropp, Luke Adam, Jhonas Enroth and Cody Hodgson from contention.
When the Buffalo Sabres' pick came at number 23 in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, there were a few routes general manager Darcy Regier could have gone.
The Sabres' biggest need was at center, with Derek Roy as the only above-average point producer among the group. Right wing was another weaker spot on the roster.
Instead, Regier went with a familiar adage: Take the best player available.
That player was Mark Pysyk, a defenseman for the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings. Pysyk is the definition of a two-way defenseman, with excellent hockey sense in both zones. He skates extremely well with the puck and has a quick first pass which helps open the ice for his teammates.
Pysyk is a bigger body, but needs to work on his strength, especially in relation to his shot, to become an elite NHL defenseman.
With the Oil Kings the last four years, Pysyk led the team on a drastic improvement from his second year to his fourth year (last season). With only 16 wins in the 2009-2010 season, the Oil Kings promoted Pysyk to captain and improved to 31 wins in 2010-2011 and 50 wins last season—including the WHL Championship.
With Pysyk's eligibility in the WHL exhausted, he will begin the first year of his pro-level deal in Rochester of the AHL this October. He will join an exciting group of young Sabres defenseman including Brayden McNabb and TJ Brennan.
Look for Pysyk to have a strong showing in Rochester this year. The more success he has, the more likely it will be that he will see time in Buffalo with the Sabres next season.