When the NY Islanders signed Hudson Fasching this summer to a one-year, $750K contract, no one believed it to be anything more than a depth move. Fasching is on his fourth NHL team in his seven-year professional career. He started with the Los Angeles Kings who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL draft, however, never dressed for an NHL game until he was with the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015-16 season. In the previous two seasons, Fasching was part of the Arizona Coyotes organization and now, the Islanders have given him a chance to showcase his talents and he's run away with the opportunity.
In his seven-year AHL career, Fasching never lit the league up in terms of scoring. He's a multi-30-plus point collector with a career-best 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) last season with the Tuscon Roadrunners. At the NHL level, he won't be much of a point collector, either, but he's proven he can net the occasional point while providing plenty of other elements necessary in a bottom-six role.
The Islanders recalled Fasching with a number of injuries piling up for the varsity squad. Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Palmieri remain missing from the forward group, and Simon Holmstrom is the latest to go down with an injury. Fasching has mostly replaced Clutterbuck in his checking role on the fourth line and has fit in like a glove. Fasching has brought that fourth-line energy we all know and love from the MC^2 line, making things hard for his opponent in the Islanders zone, skating the puck away from danger, and being unafraid to throw his body around when necessary. His most physical game came against the Vegas Golden Knights when he totaled five hits.
It wasn't long before Fasching found the back of the net, too. In his second game with the Islanders, Fasching scored the Isles third goal of the game in what appeared to be the start of a comeback against the St. Louis Blues who had fouund the back of the net five times in two-plus periods. It wasn't enough to help the Islanders mount a comeback, but it was a goal in a moment when the Islanders really needed one. His second goal, however, was a pretty one. In that same game where he threw five hits against the Golden Knights, Fasching scored an aggressive, highlight worthy goal to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead in the second period en route to a 5-2 Isles victory.
In Tuesday night's contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the injury bug bit again as the Islanders lost Oliver Wahlstrom early in the first period. Lane Lambert mixed and matched his lines while short a man and Fasching found his way to Mathew Barzal's wing. It was another moment where Fasching made the most of his opportunity, winning a puck battle below the blue line, feeding the puck to the slot for a high-danger scoring chance, and Barzal finding it and cashing in to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. The Isles went on to win 5-1.
Fasching said: "It was fun. Obviously the first shift, we score within the first 30 seconds. It was a lot of fun. (Bailey and Barzal) are really creative players, Barzy is a special player. It was fun to try and figure out how to play with him and find those spaces. It's definitely a bit of a different game playing with that line, but I take fun in that challenge."
If you didn't think this would go the analytics route, think again. Fasching's short sample is proving to be a productive one. He's accruing positive scoring chances and helping create high-danger ones to boot. He's totaled a 54.07 CF%, 51.11xGF%, 54.76 HDCF%, and 71.43 HDGF% in 100:51 of time on ice according to NaturalStatTrick. In the Islanders' last nine games, Fasching is a top-10 player on the Isles in all categories.
Fasching has certainly helped light a spark in the Islanders lineup who have now won back-to-back 5-1 games over the Panthers and the Penguins. He's continued to show up and put in the work to remain in the lineup and provide an impact. He hasn't stuck in the NHL quite yet, but he's making a case for himself in the Islanders lineup and Lambert has certainly taken notice.
"He's done a good job over time. I've only known him for a short period of time. Tremendous person first and foremost. When you have that going for you, your ability to come through certain adversities and continue to push forward shows itself. He's done a really good job for us playing whatever position or whatever role we've asked of him at this point."