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Fasching’s Roller Coaster Ride to Long Island, Key Piece in Playoff Puzzle?

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While all the hype Monday night was surrounding Bo Horvat, who made his New York Islanders debut, the group also got Hudson Fasching (and Noah Dobson) back in the lineup.

Hudson Fasching had missed six games with a lower-body injury landing him on Injured Reserve, and although just a role player for New York, his absence was felt.

In his return to the lineup, alongside Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin on the fourth line, Fasching was incredibly noticeable in the 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

In 9:13 minutes, the 27-year-old winger had one shot and one hit and seemed to win every puck race, puck battle, not missing a beat despite his absence.

“I liked him. Just up and down, he did his job,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert told NYI Hockey Now. “I thought he was on pucks. I thought he protected it in the offensive zone, and he made some plays.

“He had a couple of opportunities, near misses, so I thought he played well.”

Linemate Martin told NYI Hockey Now that he’s just a good player, and it’s as simple as that.

“He’s a good player, and he knows what his role is and responsibility and the way he needs to play to be effective and stick in the lineup,” Martin said. “He plays a lot like Clutterbuck, just maybe not as physical, but uses his body well. It was a good first game for us being back together, and just got to keep it going.”

For Fasching, his road to a stable NHL job was not a direct route by any means. His story is one full of more downs than ups, signs that an NHL career was more of a dream than a reality, especially after each passing year.

Other athletes in his position may have pulled out the white flag and waved it, still holding their head high for the effort but understanding the reality of the situation, the circumstances.

At 27 years old, Fasching had played 280 AHL games over the course of six years (69 goals, 79 assists) split between the Rochester Americans and Tucson Roadrunners, the AHL organizations for the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes, respectively.

From 2015 to 2022, he had played in just 33 NHL games, with a goal and two assists, all coming in a 17-game span from 2015 to 2017 with Buffalo.

Following the 2021-22 season, where he served as captain of Tucson, he became an unrestricted free agent and was in search of an organization where he could continue to pursue his dream.

The Islanders came calling.

“I mean, my agent is doing kind of the forefront of it, so I don’t get to see a lot of the behind-the-scenes process, but from what I understood, they were interested in me, and my agent and I felt like it was kind of the best fit for my playing style,” Fasching said. “I think they like players that are smart and play defense first a little bit, so we thought we’d be a good fit.”

Fasching put pen to paper on a one-year, two-way contract on Aug. 23, with a salary cap hit of $750,000 (league minimum).

“It happened fast. It was kind of like, hey, the Islanders are involved. This looks like our best bet. Let’s do this,” Fasching said. “And so I didn’t get a whole lot of time to run through the gauntlet of guys that have played here before. I know Aaron Ness as well, who had been here previously, pretty close with him in Arizona. And so I talked to a few guys about the organization, and everybody had pretty positive things to say about it. So I was just excited to get you get here.”

The Islanders had just finished off a disappointing 2021-22 campaign, and although the NHL roster had remained the same, the influx of young talent in Bridgeport, the need for an AHL veteran who had leadership skills and a tremendous work ethic was certainly there.

Fasching did not know much about the organization.

“It’s hard to follow all 32 teams. You follow the ones that you’re with, and obviously you keep in touch with the league, but I wasn’t obviously too involved in the details of it,” Fasching said. “Obviously knew a lot about the organization. And knew kind of what they stood for. And kind of the more the big talking points versus the details.”

Although a Wisconsin native, Fasching spent his summers in Minnesota and did know a few of his now New York Islanders teammates. When training camp rolled around, those familiar faces helped him feel a bit more comfortable as he attended his seventh NHL training camp.

“I had some familiar faces here. Nelson, Parise, Lee, Cholowski–he skates in Minnesota in the summers– Kieffer Bellows was here too at the time, and so I got a lot of familiar faces,” Fasching said. “And they were very warm and welcoming, and very professional from the beginning.

“So it seemed like a fit right from the start.”

Fasching survived the first few rounds of cuts but was ultimately sent to Bridgeport, passing through waivers on Oct. 5. This was nothing new for Fasching, and his mindset, like it had been in years passed, was the same.

“I’d been to my seventh training camp, sixth time being sent down, so that was nothing new by any means,” Fasching said. “It was a fresh start in a new organization, and I wanted to show what I was capable of and what I could do here. Obviously, make a good first impression. So just go down there, work as hard as I could, and see where the chips fall after that.”

On Dec. 1, Fasching, along with Cole Bardreau, were recalled from Bridgeport for “positional purposes,” per Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello.

Fasching had seven goals and three assists with Bridgeport.

“I was very excited and honored to be able to play for this organization,” Fasching said. “I kind of knew coming in here I was going to have to play hard and try to do everything I could to earn a spot here.”

In his second game in an Islanders sweater, Fasching scored his second career NHL goal via a deflection, snapping a six-year NHL goal drought.

Over the course of six games, Fasching scored twice, using his body to win puck battles and create chances for his linemates.

On Dec. 21, Fasching was returned to Bridgeport, but just four 24 hours as he was back up with the big club, and despite being sent down one more time before the Christmas break (paper transaction), he has made himself an indispensable part of the Islanders’ lineup.

In 20 games with New York, Fasching has three goals and two assists, with 21 shots, six blocks, 25 hits, with eight takeaways and two giveaways.

When you look at this season as a whole, Hudson Fasching has to be part of the conversation if the Islanders make the postseason.

An afterthought signing in the summer has turned into one of the more critical role players for the team, especially with Cal Clutterbuck’s timeline up in the air.

Even if players do return from injury, through his play, Fasching has locked himself into a starting job, giving Lambert no reason to take him out at this time.

All the credit should go to Fasching, as he’s grinded to get to where he is.

“Just perseverance at the end of the day. Some players come into this league at 18, and other guys take a little longer. He’s stuck with it,” Martin told NYI Hockey Now. “I was not overly familiar with his game when he was younger, but I’m sure he has made adjustments to make himself a valuable piece that can’t be taken out.”

“I think everybody in this league at some point was a top-line player. You got to fulfill different roles and responsibilities, and the guys that are able to adapt like that generally carved themselves out a job and a role and, hopefully, for him, a role for a long time. That’s a really important part, but I think it’s impressive that he stuck with it all this time and found a way to be effective with this group.”

“He’s a dog out there,” Mathew Barzal said. “He’s just a big body, good hands, and good skill. It’s just a really nice that he’s come up and played so well.”

NYI Hockey Now had asked Lambert back in early January what he had seen from Fasching this season.

“What I’ve liked about him is he’s competed. He’s competed every shift and used his body,” Lambert said.  He’s created some production. He just goes to the net hard. He clearly looks like a guy who wants to play in the National Hockey League.”

“He has a lot of trust.”

On just a one-year deal, who knows what the future holds for Hudson Fasching on the island. Right now, he’s enjoying every step of the journey, taking nothing for granted.

“It’s always an honor to be able to play in the NHL,” Fasching said. “You’re definitely grateful when you’ve spent as much time in the minors as I have, to, you know, every day up is a gift to some extent. It’s been a lot of fun so far, and just take it day by day.

“And I’ve been called up and sent down so many times, it’s like, you know, my bags are always packed. So I just take it day by day and enjoy it and try to make it as fun as possible.”

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