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PYSYK SHOULDERED THE LOAD FOR OIL KINGS

Friday, 06.25.2010 / 10:49 PM / News
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PYSYK SHOULDERED THE LOAD FOR OIL KINGS
Mark Pysyk of Canada was the 23rd pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the NHL National Hockey League draft at Staples Center in Los Angeles Friday, June 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
At just 6-foot-1 and 174 pounds, Mark Pysyk doesn't have the broad shoulders of some of the bigger players in the 2010 Entry Draft class.

However, he was forced to carry most of the load at both ends of the ice this season for the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings, and while his numbers might not show it -- 7 goals, 24 points and a minus-19 rating in 48 games -- they don't tell nearly the whole story.

He played more than 20 minutes a night, and finished eighth on the team in scoring despite his season ending Feb. 10 due to a broken foot.

"We're really proud of the way Mark has developed both as a hockey player and as an outstanding member of the community," Edmonton GM Bob Green said. "He carried our team on his back a lot of nights this winter, and the fact that he played on a broken foot for a couple of games before he was forced to end his season early shows how much character he's developed."

Playing for the Oil Kings the last three seasons certainly has taught Pysyk how to deal with adversity. The franchise's first bantam pick for its inaugural 2007 season, the Oil Kings have missed the playoffs twice in Pysyk's three seasons, and in 2009-10 had the second-fewest points in the league.

"We went on an 11-game losing streak this year," Pysyk said. "It's tough to get over those and we can't really win in the shootout right now. But it's coming, and I think just pushing through that, sticking together as a team, I think that helps me out as well."

Despite the team's poor play, Pysyk stood out for his vast array of talent.

"No one is as explosive from the back end as he is," Peter Sullivan, who scouts Western Canada for NHL Central Scouting, told NHL.com. "He moves the puck as well as anybody. But his points don't indicate how valuable he is to a team and I think maybe it could be a cliché, but if he played on a better team, you'd even see him higher up in the votes."


Five Questions (Click image to enlarge)

Sullivan wasn't the only scout who felt that way. As Edmonton sunk in the standings, Pysyk rose in Central Scouting's rankings, moving up from No. 9 in January's midterm rating of North American skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft to No. 7 in the final release in April. He's the second-highest rated WHL skater for the June 25-26 selection process, behind No. 3 Brett Connolly.

Pysyk, however, isn't letting draft rankings worry him.

"You try not to pay attention, but you know it's there," Pysyk told NHL.com. "I think it's a good accomplishment for myself. So many kids playing hockey that you've played with and stuff. Everybody's been working hard. You're closer now to the NHL. It's cool seeing that stuff."

Pysyk recognizes there are things he needs to get better at before he's ready to move to the next level.

"I need to work on my shot and getting bigger, stronger, playing with a little bit more of an edge," he said. "And also foot speed. Everybody can always work on that. You never really can be satisfied with any part of your game."

That's been a hallmark of Pysyk, going back to his first days on skates on the outdoor rinks growing up in Edmonton.

"My sister (Nicole) is a better skater than me, so that might be why I kept going, to get better, because I couldn't live with her being better," Pysyk said.

That's also where he got used to playing long stretches in games. You wanted to keep moving playing outside, because it really was the only way to stay warm.

"The tournaments were outdoors, and we'd take shifts two minutes long, three lines, and then you'd go inside the community hall to warm up your feet because it was probably minus-35 out," Pysyk said.

He won't have to worry about too many outdoor games in the deep freeze in his future -- most NHL games are indoors now.

However, playing in the NHL requires more than just a high skill level and the ability to put up with some cold weather -- it's dealing with the day-to-day pressure and expectation that comes with playing hockey at its highest level. Being in the glare of that kind of spotlight is something Pysyk admits he's still getting used to.

"I don't really enjoy it," he said. "I'd rather be out playing on the pond, just messing around. It (the pressure) is going to be there. If you want to play in the NHL it's going to be there, so you have to deal with it. If I can block that out and just pretend nobody's watching, not try to impress anybody but yourself, and just work hard that way."

He'll be getting more time in the spotlight in the near future as he was one of 41 skaters invited to Hockey Canada's junior evaluation camp, which will help set the roster for the 2011 World Junior Championship team.

He won't have to be the man again, but if he's needed, he certainly has experience filling that role.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Hodgson 72 20 24 -26 44
T. Ennis 80 21 22 -25 43
D. Stafford 70 16 18 -19 34
C. Ehrhoff 79 6 27 -27 33
C. Stewart 63 15 11 0 26
C. Conacher 79 7 19 1 26
T. Myers 62 9 13 -26 22
Z. Girgensons 70 8 14 -6 22
M. Foligno 74 7 12 -17 19
J. McBain 69 6 11 -13 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Neuvirth 4 8 2 .921 2.78
J. Enroth 4 17 5 .911 2.82