Trio tunes up as national camps conclude

Edmonton Oil Kings captain Mark Pysyk recently skated among a pack of 17 defensemen looking to make a good first impression as Canada's National Junior Development Camp came and went last week in Alberta. The camp roster, which also included 2010 third-rounder Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, played a pair of competitive scrimmages to begin their World Junior Championship quest and ramp-up their games for the coming season.

The Edmonton Sun's Cult of Hockey recently caught up with Pysyk at camp's conclusion. The 6'1, 187 pounder answered a few questions with an Edmonton flavor, including a brief discussion about the Oilers' 2011 first-rounder, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

CoH: You and Keegan [Lowe] were hard-matched against Nugent-Hopkins quite a bit last year. What are the challenges of playing against him?

MP: If you try to be physical against him he slips around you. If you give him too much space he’ll make you look stupid. If you give him the shot he’ll take it and score. If you don’t give him the shot he’ll pass it around you. He’s just an all-around good player, and you need to play him tight but you still have to respect his speed and his ability to shoot the puck.

CoH: Does he draw you in or does he back you up with his range of possibilities?

MP: He tends to draw people in and then pass the puck around them to the open guy. He’s pretty tough to play against. Hopefully he makes the Oilers so that will make our life a little bit easier with the Oil Kings, and maybe we’ll come to some Oiler games and see what he can do.

Pysyk, who skated as member of Team Red alongside Memorial Cup standout Nathan Beaulieu, is clearly in the mix for a top-six position when the tourney comes to Alberta this winter. After being among the final cuts for the 2011 squad last winter, his skating ability, smarts, and experience should give him a leg up assuming a healthy first-half. We're going to read many articles in the next two months about the possibility of an extended stay in camp and even a nine-game look, but that's hard to envision given the depth in front of him.

The offensive-minded Gauther-Leduc manned a blueline post for Team White with Pysyk's close pal, Joe Morrow of the Portland Winterhawks. The reigning #2 scorer among QMJHL defenders did not register a point in the scrimmages, but could command a selection camp invite with strong fall in Rimouski.


As Canada's camp came to a close, another opened nearly 2,000 miles away as Team USA hosted Sweden and Finland for the National Development Camp in Lake Placid, NY. The Sabres top pick this past June, RW Joel Armia, scored a goal and three assists in four games for the Finnish squad - all losses.

Armia was the subject of a piece after playing for the first time in front of the entire Sabres front office. Finland was pummeled by Sweden, 8-1, and while Armia didn't seem too excited about his performance ("I think I played the worst game I've ever played"), the Sabres brass seemed to think otherwise.

"After the first game here (Monday) I think it was fairly evident the hands he's got and his shot," Sabres Director of Pro Scouting Jon Christiano told "You don't question some of his offensive instincts and offensive skills from the blue line in. He made a real nice play setting up their first goal. He had a great chance where he blew down the left wing and deked (U.S. defenseman Justin) Holl and pounded the puck wide. Kind of like that. He's filling into his body a little bit, that's expected; he's still a young kid. On the offensive end of things, you have to like the natural skill."

"I thought at times he was good," added Regier. "I like his skating ability, his skill. Obviously it was a tough night, but we like his total package and his ability to score."

Armia's excellent hands were on display Thursday when he he netted his lone goal of the tourney with a nice release off an odd-man rush. As far as video of those hands, check out the clip below where he makes two nice plays to get Finland on the board in their Friday contest versus Sweden.

There's work to be done, but for now his future looks bright as a developing trigger man. The 6'3, 192-pounder will remain in Finland this season and is all but guaranteed a spot on their World Junior entry. 
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