He wasn’t the first or last player from the Edmonton area to be named captain of the Edmonton Oil Kings, but Mark Pysyk will be long remembered as one of the best to put on the jersey and wear the C in Alberta’s provincial capital.
Holding the third-overall selection at the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft, the Oil Kings went local and named the Sherwood Park, Alta. product as their first-ever selection. Then a member of the Strathcona Bantam AAA Warriors, Pysyk was on the path to stardom while also helping ignite the Oil Kings’ strongest three-year run in their history.
During the 2007-08 WHL Regular Season, the Oil Kings’ first in the WHL, Pysyk found his way into 14 games for the WHL club, totalling three points (1G-2A). That first goal would come on March 8, 2008 on an East Division road trip against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Joining the Oil Kings permanently for the 2008-09 WHL Regular Season Pysyk brought a similar offensive flair he showed in minor hockey with 20 points (5G-15A) in 61 games. He once again found the back of the net in a road win over the Brandon Wheat Kings, supplying the game-winning goal in overtime on January 10, 2009. While he ranked 64th in defensive scoring that season, he was fifth among rookies and steadily gaining experience.
The 2009 WHL Playoffs experience for Pysyk and the Oil Kings was short but provided a learning opportunity as they fell to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Calgary Hitmen in four games.
As an alternate captain in the 2009-10 WHL Regular Season, Pysyk appeared in just 48 games, but saw his offensive totals rise to 24 points (7G-17A), thriving against a trio of Western Conference opponents. Hosting the Seattle Thunderbirds on October 28, 2009, Pysyk recorded the first three-point game of his WHL career with a goal and two assists. Rolling through the B.C. Division that season, Pysyk recorded his second multi-point game of the season with a goal and an assist against the Kamloops Blazers on November 6, 2009.
The following month in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, Pysyk would record the first two-goal game of his WHL career in a loss to the Vancouver Giants.
Despite the bright spots for Pysyk, the Oil Kings were absent from the playoffs in 2010. Still, it was now time for the 18-year-old Pysyk to take the reins of the Club’s leadership.
That summer, Pysyk was selected 23rd overall by the Buffalo Sabres at the 2010 NHL Draft. He was one of seven WHL players and the seventh defenceman to be selected in the first round.
Returning to Edmonton for the 2010-11 WHL Regular Season, the Oil Kings showed a marked improvement with Pysyk leading the way as captain. A seven-game winning streak from mid-October to early November helped the Oil Kings keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race. As part of that improvement, Pysyk was contributing more to finish with 40 points (6G-34A) in 63 games.
Seven multi-point games helped power Pysyk to that final total and land the Oil Kings fourth place in the competitive Central Division. His performances included a pair of four-point games where he tallied a goal and three assists on December 3, 2010 against the Brandon Wheat Kings and February 23, 2011 against the Calgary Hitmen.
Matched up against the division-winning Red Deer Rebels in the 2011 WHL Playoffs, the Oil Kings once again fell in four-straight games. Despite the early exit, there was still plenty of promise for a growing Oil Kings team that was about to realize their best.
Returning to captain the team in the 2011-12 WHL season, Pysyk guided the Oil Kings to their second-best regular season performance ever. A 38-point improvement gave them their first-ever Central Division title by a 16-point margin over the Hitmen.
From the blue line, Pysyk tallied 38 points (6G-32A) in 57 games to rank second in defensive scoring on the team. Pysyk tallied 10 multi-point games, including a quartet of three-point efforts.
Despite not winning a playoff game yet in their history, the Oil Kings breezed through four-game sweeps of the Kootenay ICE and Wheat Kings and dropped just one game to the Moose Jaw Warriors before being crowned as Eastern Conference Champions.
Making their WHL Championship Series debut against the Portland Winterhawks, Pysyk led the Oil Kings once more. With the best-of-seven series tied 2-2, the score was deadlocked at 3-3 in the late stages of Game 5. That’s when Pysyk stepped up to score one of his most memorable goals, beating Mac Carruth glove side in the final minute of play to deliver a 4-3 win.
Eventually capturing the WHL Championship in Game 7, the Oil Kings began a three-year run of WHL Championship Series appearances to establish them among the WHL’s top Clubs.
From start to finish, Pysyk collected 125 points (25G-100A) in 243 WHL regular season games, adding 11 points (3G-8A) in 28 WHL playoff games.
Pysyk then began to thrive in the professional hockey ranks and would make his NHL debut that season with the Sabres. The 19-game appearance during the 2012-13 NHL Regular Season saw him score his first NHL goal on April 19, 2013 against the New York Rangers.
Acquired by the Florida Panthers in June 2016, Pysyk has now spent the majority of the last five seasons in the NHL. Along the way, he’s accumulated 88 points (22G-66A) in 417 NHL regular season games between the Sabres and Panthers.
Among his fellow defencemen taken in the 2010 NHL Draft, Pysyk is one of six to play more than 400 NHL games and ranks fifth in points among those on the blue line. He made headlines on February 3, 2020 when he notched a hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With a steady hand and vision for the ice, Pysyk brought the Oil Kings their first taste of WHL Championship glory in their own backyard to help set the successful tone for their future and his.