by Lisa Brown on 08/18/11 at 02:29 PM ET
Mark Pysyk was drafted in the first round, 23rd overall by the Buffalo Sabres. The Oil Kings’ captain may not be an Oilers’ prospect, but for now he is still a member of the extended Oilers’ family. The emphasis on that statement should be for now. As Bruce McCurdy notes, it will not be a surprise if the young defenceman gets a long look by the Sabres. This summer, Pysyk received his second invitation to a Team Canada U20 development camp this summer and is hoping to have made the most of it. In 2009 Pysyk won gold representing his country at the U18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament, the 2009 and 2010 Subway Super Series, and in December 2010 Pysyk was invited to the World Junior Camp but didn’t make the final cuts to play in the Holiday tournament. This could be the young defenseman’s year.
Mark Pysyk and Dylan Wruck in Red Deer during the 2010 WHL playoffs
Pysyk is a strong skater, a smart player and has some offensive upside. In the 2010-11 season through 63 games played Pysyk had 6 goals and 34 assists. At the end of the season, Pysyk won the team’s MVP and also the top defenceman awards. Now Pysyk may have his sights set on another gold, or his first season in the NHL.
I had a few minutes to catch up with the always smiling, friendly, confident and intelligent Mark Pysyk on August 6th after his Team Red morning skate. Much like Tyler Bunz, Pysyk is easy to talk to and quick to answer any questions. The “new” Oil Kings’ first ever draft pick, third overall from the 2007 Bantam draft, Pysyk is also a local boy so has gone through more interviews than most players his age. After all, Edmonton is known as a hockey fish bowl. Pysyk grew up watching players experience the media attention and is now going through it himself. Thankfully, he seems to enjoy it. I think that there is a comical side to Pysyk, Sabres fans can likely look forward to some entertaining comments from this young man after all Pysyk was good natured enough to make the time to keep a Team Canada blog for the Edmonton Oil Kings.
LM – You’re an Oil King, how does it feel playing for Team Canada in your home building?
Mark Pysyk - It’s pretty cool everyone’s around here. I saw my coaches, went to the dressing room, hung out as if it were regular season. Went on the bench two days ago for the game and Hammy [Oil Kings’ assistant captain Steve Hamilton] was coaching on the bench it was just like a real game to look back and see the same coach. It was a little bit weird, but it was just like regular season playing with different guys.
LM – Does the familiarity help to take away anxiety or give you more?
Mark Pysyk – I think it takes away. You’ve got to feel the rink you’re at, the hotel you’re at, the city you’re at when you go somewhere else. Here, I just drove five minutes down the road to get to the hotel. It’s kind of weird, I packed my bags to go fifteen minutes away from home, but I think it’s cleared away all of the nerves I’ve had and allowed me to play.
LM – One of your best friends and your defensive partner was just drafted to the East as well..
Mark Pysyk - I was really proud of him. Good for him, good to see him go to the Eastern conference as well. Hopefully our paths will cross quite a bit when we’re down there because he’s been a good kid to play with and also my roommate. Nothing but fun with him.
LM I was a little nervous about you two being separated
Mark Pysyk - [laughs] Ya me too, but we’re pretty close
What are your thought on playing Nugent-Hopkins?
Mark Pysyk - I tell all of the guys that he’s my favourite player [laughs] and I really enjoy his play. I like it a lot more when I’m watching him play instead of playing against him because he’s a pretty special player. Hopefully he makes the Oilers because that will make our lives a little easier with the Oil Kings and maybe come to some Oiler games and see what he can do.
LM - There are 5 greater Edmonton area players at this camp, what do you think that that says about hockey in Edmonton?
Mark Pysyk - Ya it’s great that they develop their players. I’ve had great coaches all of the way through. It’s a great program.
How Pysyk’s year will end will depend on his NHL camp with the Buffalo Sabres. Should Pysyk return to the Oil Kings this season, he will be playing in his last WHL season; Pysyk’s birthday places him 11 days away from AHL eligibility this year. If in the WHL and Pysyk has a good and consistent start to his season, he would be an easy pick for the Team Canada camp.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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