Youngest Kings' Prospect Taking Big Steps Forward
Earlier in the week we took a look at Kevin Gravel, a 2010 Kings draft pick currently playing out his senior year at St. Cloud State University [linked here if you missed it].
Now, we go to the other end of the spectrum, a 2013 selection midway through his freshman season at the University of Minnesota.
Hudson Fasching is 6-feet-2, 215 lbs and he's wreaking havoc on both the college and international hockey scenes.
Fresh back from playing in Sweden with Team USA at the World Junior Championships - the premier tournament in the world for players under the age of 20 - he's a star on the rise and a kid many have already tabbed 'the steal of the draft' last year.
In the coming months he'll be focused on finding success stateside. He and his Gopher teammates are currently ranked as the top NCAA men's team in the nation. The fact that he's getting significant minutes there as a true freshman suggests he's starting to utilize more of his overall skill set after slipping down the draft board.
"Hudson was definitely projected as a first round pick at one time, maybe a top twenty pick," said Mark Yannetti, Co-Director of Amateur Scouting for the Kings. "He had an excellent 17 [year old] season, where he showed, with his size and stuff - once again, projection - he could be that heavy, skating, solid possession guy that obviously, by the look of our NHL team, we covet. Things went off the rails for him as an 18-year-old. Quite frankly, the season was a disappointment to him. I don’t want to speak for him, but it was not what I expected. It just went off the rails. He was inconsistent."
And that makes a big difference between going in the first round or dropping to the fourth round, like Fasching did. Even so, he started this year with a clean slate and is doing his best to erase any lingering doubts.
"He needed to define himself," Yannetti continued. "I mean defining himself as playing well. That’s a big thing for me. It’s what you’re seeing this year. He’s defined himself. You look at Hudson Fasching, and you see exactly what his role is. You know that he can play that role the way you want it played. He defines himself. He’s a heavy presence. He may not go in and run guys, but he goes in and hits, and when he hits, he’s heavy.
Let's see here... American-born, has played for Team USA, a power forward... ring any bells? Dustin Brown maybe?
"Obviously he has [a] great work ethic and he’s well respected," Fasching said. "That’s something that I hope to have in my own game and in my own personality."
When asked if any of the Kings brass had made the comparison to him, Fasching added, "I wish they would! We're both power forwards, he has a little more edge to his game, maybe."
Another player cut from the same cloth is St. Louis Blues captain David Backes, another player Fasching says he admires and looks up to.
"Backes wasn’t always one of the star players growing up," explained the young prospect. "So I think that his work ethic is something that he can hold himself to. It's one of his strengths and one of his strong suits. The way that he competes for pucks and tries to win all of his battles is something that I try to emulate myself and make sure that I’m competitive in all aspects of the game."
That's not a bad pair of forwards to emulate and aspire to be like. Still, that's a ways down the road. At the moment, Fasching is the youngest prospect in the Kings organization - beating out Valentin Zykov by about two months.
"That’s awesome," he said, unaware of the stat. "I’ve always been one of the youngest guys, so I guess it fits me well."
To see him on the ice, you wouldn’t know it though. His stature and frame are more complete than most players his age and his hockey IQ is starting to display itself on a much more consistent basis.
"Why didn’t you see it his draft year? He got away from his game," Yannetti explained. "That’s what happens. It’s why drafting is such an inexact science, because you’re drafting 17-year-old kids. It was just one of those things. We looked at it. We didn’t think that it was an issue of work. We didn’t think it was an issue of compete. We didn’t think it was an issue of toughness or grit. It’s just one of those things that happens to kids.
It's not all happy faces and blue skies ahead though. Yannetti still wants to see more from Fasching, despite posting 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 21 games thus far for Minnesota.
"He [impressed] at the World Junior evaluation camp in August. That’s great, but it’s a two week thing," Yannetti remarked. "There’s a big difference between doing it for two weeks... How many guys have we seen do it for two weeks and then go back to what they are? So you get cautiously optimistic. You talk to him about how proud you are, because you are, because he’s dealt with adversity. If he continues this, dealing with the adversity of a poor draft year and turning it around quickly and emphatically as he’s turned it around. Because he’s going to deal with adversity when he gets out of Minnesota. He’s going to deal with adversity when he’s in the American League. He’s going to deal with adversity when he’s in the NHL. Guess what? If he continues what he’s done this year, we know that the hardest thing for a player to deal with is adversity, we’ll know that he can deal with it."
Away from the rink, Hudson knows far too well about the various tests people face in their lives. He has two younger siblings who require full-time care, neither can walk or speak, due to a mitochondrial disorder.
"If you want to talk about character, you start at the top with Hudson. Plain and simple," Yannetti emphatically noted. "He embraces that role, too. You can see how he carries himself. You can see the type of young man, you can see that character. Hockey’s the easy part."
Fasching is the only prospect in the entire Kings organization that hasn't been to Los Angeles for at least one camp. He's never slipped on a Kings jersey, practiced at the team's training facility or met any of the coaching staff.
Last summer, he wasn't able to attend the Kings' annual Development Camp in July due to summer school. In fact, he's only ever been to California one time, and that was a long time ago.
"I came to San Diego when I was about five for my brother and sister. They had a doctor appointment out there."
This coming summer he's hoping to make the trip to El Segundo and be a regular participant at camp. More than anything, he's excited about how that will likely make him feel like a 'real' member of the Kings family.
"In general, they've done a really good job of staying in contact with me. They’ve made a really good effort to make it out and come to some of the games," he said. "But coming out to L.A. this summer should be a lot of fun. I think that will really forward my progress with being part of the Kings.”
Until then, he'll continue to draw strength from his actual family, who aren't too far away from campus in Minnesota.
"Being here is almost like being back home compared to my last couple of years in Ann Arbor, Michigan," he said, referring to the time he spent with the U.S. National Development Program. "I’m a half hour away from home; my parents come to pretty much all my games, so I really almost feel like I’m right at home. Family is a big part of my life."
On the ice, he's already had to play against part of his new, extended family. When Minnesota visited Wisconsin earlier this year, the Badgers had Kings' 2011 prospect Michael Mersch at forward.
“He’s obviously a great player," Fasching said. "We had a fun weekend with them. He plays a really strong game. He’s a leader on their team. Hopefully I can transition to be a leader here as the years go on.”
A meeting vs another Kings prospect is next on the agenda, Minnesota is set to take on the aforementioned Kevin Gravel and the St. Cloud State Huskies tonight. Each team has held the number one ranking this season and it’s the only time they'll meet in the regular season this year.
Despite what sounds like a pressure packed situation, don't expect Fasching to crumble anytime soon.
"There’s a little bit of pressure," he admitted. "It’s fun to have that responsibility though. It makes every game just count so much more. It’s more exciting to come to the rink every day and get better."
Each day, each passing week, that's exactly what Fasching continues to do.