After two scrimmages and a round of cuts, one Sabres prospect remains.
A favorite to crack Canada's top-six entering camp, Edmonton Oil Kings captain Mark Pysyk has continued his steady play through the Red/White tilts, maintaining good gaps and showing his smarts in all three zones while paired with Joe Morrow (game #1) and Nathan Beaulieu (game #2).
Pysyk generally limits his mistakes, making him the perfect type of rearguard for tournament play, but he did commit a turnover early that resulted in a power play opportunity for Team Red early in Sunday's contest. He did not earn a point in either game, but was on the ice for one goal against (right D #5 below - excuse poor quality).
As a whole it appears that the benching he received last week against Calgary (for play demmed "selfish" by EDM bench boss Derek Laxdal) has paid some dividends. Pysyk's feet and aptitude have stood out as they do on most nights. He simply looks bigger, stronger, and more ready than he was a season ago, likely solidifying his spot on the team as a solid minute-eater.
Unlike Pysyk who has a more complete two-way package, fellow White blueliner Leduc was brought to camp for one reason - offense. Leduc (#3), a mobile righty who leads all Canadian major-junior defensemen with 47 points, used his cannon shot to get an assist on the game winning goal in White's 3-2 opening night win on Sunday.
Leduc would again show his shot in White's 2-0 loss in game #2, firing a hard slapper off the pipe near the end of the game that resulted in him defending a 2x1 going back the other way (taking the pass away, leaving the goalie to take the shooter).
However when the calls were made Tuesday morning as Canada cut their roster down, Leduc was among the first to get sent home.
Given the depth of competition, the move was not surprising. Canada has some well-rounded options who can carry the full-time luggage, and it was going to be a hard sell putting Leduc in the top six.
Scanning the pool of candidates in the weeks leading up to camp, Leduc seemed more like an ideal #7 than a top-six guy; an ace offensive catalyst who can breathe life into a power play but likely not sturdy enough defensively for a leading role. Through two games he did little to separate himself from the pack.
Leduc's offensive package comes with some uneven play in his own zone that can make for some adventurous shifts. He can get in trouble against physical forwards, and can sometimes get ambitious with the puck as evidenced by an egregious turnover in game #2 that resulted in his defensive partner going to the box for tripping.
A season ago, the Sabres had four players at Canada's camp - Zack Kassian, Marcus Foligno, Pysyk, and Brayden McNabb. Kassian and Foligno made the squad while Pysyk made it to final cuts. McNabb was among the first to get the axe, and proceeded to go on a tear with points in seven straight games as Kootenay started its run to the Memorial Cup.