Sabres sign top '10 pick Pysyk

The Buffalo Sabres have signed 2010 first-round pick Mark Pysyk to a three-year entry-level contract. The captain of the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings, Pysyk recently completed his third full season of major-junior, posting a career high 40 points (6+34) while registering an impressive +29 rating.

The 6'1 defender, who at 19 years of age is not eligible to play in the AHL in 2011-12, will compete for a job this fall in training camp but in all likelihood return to junior and quite possible skate for Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championship.

Here’s the profile on Pysyk from the SabresProspects Spring 2011 Rankings:

3) Mark Pysyk, RHD, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL), 2010 1st round (23rd overall)

Smart and steady, Pysyk lands on his first rankings list at the #3 spot after a solid post-draft campaign that saw him score 40 points as captain of the WHL's Oil Kings.

At 6'1, 174 pounds, the smooth-skating Pysyk cleans up well in his own zone without being overly physical. His two-way development was augmented this year on special teams, where he gained power play experience while proving extremely valuable on the penalty kill.

The overall package saw Pysyk earn huge minutes for the Oil Kings, a major factor to his impressive turnaround from a minus-19 to a plus-29 rating. He's not flashy and he shouldn't be defined as an "offensive defenseman". He simply reads the play well, makes a good first pass out, and supports the play up ice in a rather fluid manner.

Much has been made of Pysyk's skating ability. His effortless stride is great to watch, as his feet allow him to jump into spots to add offense while keeping him in good position defensively. He's already showing the ability to make veteran plays at a young age which allows for long-term projection as a safe and consistent top-4 defenseman. The only areas to look at moving forward would be durability and upping his physical play. Like so many prospects at his stage, the addition of upper body strength will help him absorb the "give and take" at the next level.

The Oil Kings came up short in the first round of the playoffs, but with Pysyk's guidance look to be a serious player when the puck drops in 2011-12. After remaining as one of Canada's final cuts for the 2011 World Juniors, expect the dynamic defender to not only wear the Canadian jersey in 2012, but possibly even wear the "C" as the tournament kicks off in his hometown of Edmonton. When I think of where this kid is going to be with two more years of maturation and how important steadying defensemen are to a hockey team, it's easy to rationalize an even higher rank.

For those curious, NHL rules state that Pysyk can play nine NHL games next season before the clock starts ticking on his contract. If he spends 2011-12 in the WHL as anticipated, the contract will essentially begin in 2012-13. Either way, the good citizen will enjoy a tasty signing bonus.

Make no mistake. The Sabres being proactive with their own assets is another way of sending a message to the entire league that "things are different now" in Buffalo.
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