New pals Kassian, Foligno World Junior bound

Congratulations to Sabres prospects Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno for being named to Canada’s 2011 National Junior Team. The right wing combo will wear the maple leaf sweater starting December 26 when the World Junior Championship kick-off at HSBC Arena.

Acquired via the 2009 draft, both 6’3 forwards have been carving up the Ontario Hockey League this season. Kassian, who leads the Windsor Spitfires with 15 goals and 48 points, is currently ranked fifth in OHL scoring and is on pace to be the first Sabres prospect to eclipse the 100-point mark since Dylan Hunter did it in 2004-05 and 2005-06 with the London Knights.

Foligno has blossomed this season as captain of the Sudbury Wolves, potting a career-best 15 goals and team-leading 33 points. Inside of that is a league-leading four short-handed marks. He was the star of the camp scrimmages with three goals, an assist, and a collection of solid hits that left a few players sore. Speculation was that Foligno could lend a hand in the dirty areas of the ice, and it seems that the Hockey Canada brass took notice.

At the 2009 draft, then-Sudbury coach (and former Sabres captain) Mike Foligno said that the Sabres drafted the two toughest kids in the “O”. Canada was expected to bring the beef in hopes of reclaiming the gold from the United States, and they got plenty of it with these two Sabres hopefuls.

One of the best parts of the story is that Kassian and Foligno have become good friends since entering the organization together. The comaraderie only gets deeper as the two work together over the next month to achieve what should be their first of many common goals. The new pals join Luke Adam, Tyler Ennis, and Tyler Myers as recent Sabres prospects to skate for the Canadian National Junior Team.

Buffalo’s first pick this past June, Mark Pysyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings, showed off his skating and intelligence in the three selection camp contests but was released from the squad as part of Wednesday’s final cuts. The Oil Kings captain returns to the WHL with a goal, 13 assists, and a +8 rating through 24 games. Fellow Western Leaguer Brayden McNabb of the Kootenay Ice was among Tuesday’s first wave of cuts.

For more on the story, please rewind a bit to read my thoughts before the camp roster was announced. At the time, Foligno was considered a longshot to make the team. My how things change in a few short weeks.
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