Zack Kassian is one of those guys that just looks like a hockey player. It is not because he stands 6’3” off the ground and weighs 220 pounds. Instead, it’s his missing front tooth which these days, is starting to stand out a bit more.
“I have a flipper (fake tooth) but my roommates threw it out,” Kassian laughs. “It was on the table in a napkin and they thought it was garbage and threw it out.”
For the moment, it has rendered Kassian toothless, although it’s become quite a conversation piece. At a recent team dinner with the public Kassian said people came up to him all night and showed him their own fake teeth, something he got quite a kick out of.
These days, Amerks fans are also getting quite a kick out of the way Kassian plays hockey.
The 20-year old from Windsor, Ontario has 13 points and seven goals in 15 games for the first place Amerks.
“He’s done a really terrific job in terms of generating offense for us,” Amerks coach Ron Rolston said after a recent practice. “He’s another one of those young players that’s in a lot of key situations for us. He’s got high expectations, both from the coaching staff and the organization on his future.”
Kassian was the Sabres first pick in the 2009 draft (13th overall).
“The expectations are greater,” Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said about Kassian and what goes along with being a first-round pick. “Those players more often that not are selected because they more potential NHL attributes than some of the later round picks…those attributes are things that we hope to expand on, develop, and utilize for a long NHL career.”
Kassian has made developing those attributes one of his top priorities, spending extra time with Amerks assistant Chris Taylor on a regular basis during and after practice.
“I want to be a complete player, and that means working on my skating and breaking the bat habits. Stopping my feet and a lot of the little things as a player so I’m ready for the NHL sooner than later.”
With all of his time on the ice, he’s still found some time to see the sights in Rochester, although one of his hangout spots isn’t one you might think.
“Wegmans! We don’t have them in Canada, and they’re pretty exciting. Great to stop in after practice and grab a quick bite to eat.”
The close proximity to Buffalo has also allowed Kassian to take in games as a fan sitting in the stands, most recently when his teammate Corey Tropp was called up to the Sabres and scored his first NHL goal.
“That’s what everyone works for. You’re watching it and thinking, you’re not a fan anymore, I’m pretty close to making it, I just need to keep working.”