Pysyk Headlining High Hopes for Oil Kings, Team Canada; Pysyk’s Camp Blog

Mark Pysyk is taking a high road on his way to the NHL.

Pysyk will likely remain with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings for the upcoming season. His birthday is 11 days shy of the cut-off point for AHL hockey, which means he would either have to play exclusively for Buffalo, or be returned to his Junior team after the NHL preseason. Sabres fans will remember Tyler Myers in a similar position in 2009. Myers was able the Sabres’ lineup, but with the current logjam of staunch defenders already entrenched along the Buffalo blue line, a real opportunity for Pysyk to stick with the big club just isn’t there.

And the Oil Kings could not be happier about that. From the Edmonton Journal:

Lost in all of the Hockey Canada world junior championship buzz is the fact that the Edmonton Oil Kings are actually hosting the event, which is good timing because the Western Hockey League club looks ready to turn the corner and become a legitimate contender.

This is Year 5 for the former expansion club, and the pieces are starting to fall into place.

“We’ve got 10 kids going to NHL camps,” said Oil Kings general managerBob Green.

The list includes captain Mark Pysyk (Buffalo Sabres), Keegan Lowe (Carolina Hurricanes), Michael St. Croix and T.J. Foster (New York Rangers), goalie Laurent Brossoit (Calgary Flames), Dylan Wruck (San Jose Sharks), Klarc Wilson (Winnipeg Jets) and Travis Ewanyk, Cam Abney, Kristians Pells and Martin Gernat (Edmonton Oilers).

Pysyk, who was at Hockey Canada’s summer development camp at Rexall Place as one of 17 defencemen auditioning for head coach Don Hay and assistants Ryan Huska and George Burnett, is the closest to being an NHLer. He’s a first-round draft pick and a mentor to Lowe, who was selected in the third round by the Hurricanes. They should have the first defence pairing.

“I think we can finish in the top four in our conference and compete for the league championship,” said Green, whose club has missed the playoffs twice and managed one round in the other two years, losing to the Calgary Hitmen and Red Deer Rebels.

With Pysyk leading the defense on a potential top-4 team, his experience in Edmonton this season should be developmentally golden.

Meanwhile, hopes for Team Canada in the upcoming World Junior Championships are also golden, with Pysyk just finishing up his audition to take part in one of the more talented groups that Canada has iced in the last 17 years. From Mike Morreale of

(Coach) Don Hay hopes the players chosen to represent Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship are in some way similar to those he helped lead to a gold medal at the 1995 tournament in Red Deer, Alta.

That team, which went 7-0-0 and outscored its opponents 49-22, included as part of its 22-man roster Bryan McCabeEd Jovanovski and Wade Redden on defense and Jason AllisonJeff FriesenRyan Smyth and Alexandre Daigle at forward.

“I think players need to skate hard and compete hard at a high level,” Hay said. “I’m looking for a high hockey IQ. It’s a short tournament and there’s really no time for teaching, so you have to play smart and pick up different aspects that the coaching staff throws at them. You want them to compete and execute, but we all know it comes down to winning.” 645w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

Pysyk taking on the highly-touted Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during scrimmage.

Those words bode well for Pysyk, who already boasts a great hockey IQ to go with his top of the line skating. Still, he is facing a lot of competition from his peers for a spot, as TSN noted:

The years 1992 and 1993 produced a bumper crop of defencemen for Canada. Of the 17 invited to the national junior hockey team’s summer camp with week, 10 are first-round draft picks of NHL clubs. Even if one or two make the jump to the NHL this season, Canada’s strength at the 2012 world junior championship in Edmonton and Calgary will be its blue-line.

Eric Gudbranson of the Kingston Frontenacs, the lone returning defenceman from the 2011 junior team, was the third overall pick in last year’s NHL draft by Florida.

Nathan Beaulieu (Montreal), Brandon Gormley (Phoenix), Mark Pysyk (Buffalo), Doug Hamilton (Boston), Joe Morrow (Pittsburgh), Ryan Murphy (Carolina), Stuart Percy (Toronto), Duncan Siemens (Colorado) and Jamie Oleksiak (Dallas) are the other first-rounders.

Murray was Canada’s captain at the world under-18 championships this year in Germany, where the team finished fourth. Murphy, from Aurora, Ont., was his defensive partner and named the best player at that position by the International Ice Hockey Federation directorate.

Those two are safe bets to wear the Maple Leaf when Canada opens the tournament Dec. 26 versus Finland at Rexall Place. Murphy is just 18 and there is less room on Carolina’s roster for him since the club signed Tomas Kaberle as a free agent.

As we noted above, Buffalo’s defense corps is likely far too deep for the burgeoning Pysyk to make the Sabres, so he is in a similar position to Murphy regarding availability. Pysyk, who was cut from the team last season, is ready to make an impact statement for Team Canada now. From Fox Sports:

Pysyk, drafted 23rd by the Buffalo Sabres in 2010, captained the Edmonton Oil Kings last season and finished with 6 goals and 40 points in 63 games.

The 6-foot-1, 174-pound Pysyk has been paired mostly with 6-1, 182-pound Nathan Beaulieu of the Memorial Cup-winning Saint John Sea Dogs. Beaulieu was taken in the first round (No. 17) by the Montreal Canadiens in June.

“During the first game and half of another, I was a little bit cautious and just feeling out the waters,” Pysyk told of last December’s camp. “This time, I can’t do that. This camp is way too short to feel out the competition, so you just have to go in, and right from Day 1, make a statement.”

The Captain of the Oil Kings is saying and doing all the right things as he continues to work his way into the Team Canada roster and on up to the NHL.

Finally, you can read Pysyk’s blog on Canada’s Development Camp here.

Go Sabres.