BUFFALO (LGS) — In his first full season with the Buffalo Sabres, defenseman Andrej Sekera has become a vital part of the team's current success. Only 22-years-old, many expected Sekera to be nothing more than a valued prospect at this point in his young career.
The six-foot, 200-pound defenseman from Slovakia was drafted in the third round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Sekera would spend the next few seasons honing his skills with the Rochester Americans before being called up to Buffalo in the waning months of the 2007-08 season. In no time at all, Sekera made a lasting impression on the coaching staff setting him up for a shot at earning a permanent spot on the Buffalo roster prior to this season. A spot he would easily take.
Heading into training camp, Sekera was prepared to do battle with Nathan Paetsch, Mike Weber, Chris Butler and Marc-Andre Gragnani in an attempt to earn the number six spot on the Sabres' defensive depth chart. The majority of hockey experts anticipated that Nathan Paetsch would complete the roster considering he led all candidates in NHL experience.
But after waving goodbye to Brian Campbell and acquiring the likes of Craig Rivet, Buffalo's defensive core established stability in their own zone and a defense-first approach. Unfortunately, an evident void was left on the power-play and in the breakout. The Sabres lacked a smooth-skating defenseman who would carry the puck on the man advantage and jump in the play, creating odd-man rushes during even-strength situations. Enter: Andrej Sekera
Now I am sure that many of you are thinking I am putting the cart before the horse, but when you take into consideration the amount of time it takes to develop an NHL defenseman, Andrej Sekera is a few horse lengths ahead of the rest.
Sabres fans will recall the bumps and bruises they experienced with the development of Brian Campbell. Soupy traveled back and forth from Rochester to Buffalo more times than a Paychex delivery man. He was often criticized for his one-on-one defense and his lack of physical play. Many believed that Campbell was "too soft" for the NHL.
Sekera is by no means an All-Star defenseman, but he ranks third among all Sabres in ice-time averaging almost 22 minutes a game. In 49 games played this season, the young blueliner has put up 14 points. Sekera is a fast skater with good hands and he is not afraid to rush the puck. His giveaways are few and a far between and having registered 48 hits, Reggie – as he is known by his teammates – is not afraid to throw his body around.
While Sabres fans shouldn't jump on the Andrej Sekera bandwagon just yet – after all he is a minus-11, they should simply be aware of his development process. We all are quick to forget that this is Sekera's first full season in the NHL. On a team full of veteran defensemen, Sekera fits the part. Considering his NHL career is just getting started, Sabres fans should expect great things from Andrej in years to come.