PITTSBURGH – The 15-minute span from hearing his name called to sitting at a podium for introductory interviews was a blur for Jake McCabe. He couldn't believe how fast the day was moving, how quickly his dreams were being achieved.
But as he talked, the 18-year-old spoke like a polished professional. The Sabres can thank their minor-league coach, Ron Rolston, for that.
Rolston coached McCabe for two years in the United States development program. The lessons and connection were integral in Buffalo making McCabe its second-round pick Saturday in the NHL entry draft.
"His biggest thing and one of the biggest things for me was each and every day he taught us how to be a pro," McCabe said in Consol Energy Center. "You present yourself like a pro, you play like a pro, eventually it will translate, not only in your hockey life but your social life and just how you carry yourself. He's a great guy, and I can't say anything bad about him."
McCabe was the Sabres' first pick on Day Two of the draft. He was a selection the team deemed too good to pass up. The Sabres judged the defenseman as worthy of a late first-round selection, so they pounced when he was still available at No. 44 overall.
"We weren't sure if we were going to get a forward or a defense, but he was too high up on our board there," said Kevin Devine, the Sabres' director of amateur scouting. "We saw him, and we really liked what we saw. He's going to be a real tough guy to play against. He's good at moving the puck. Ron Rolston called him a warrior."
McCabe recently completed his freshman season at the University of Wisconsin, where he had three goals and 12 points in 26 games while missing time with a hand injury. A teammate jumped over the boards and sliced McCabe's hand with his skate while the defenseman was taking a drink of water.
"It was a freak injury, but I think I came back pretty strong," McCabe said. "I'm a two-way defenseman. I'm used in all situations. I'm comfortable in all situations. I think I'm a leader. I'm out there blocking shots for my teammates, and that's what I enjoy doing.
"I want to be able to be comfortable eventually taking on a team's top line."
The 6-foot, 195-pounder attended the first round of last year's draft to support friend Tyler Biggs, who went 22nd overall to Toronto.
The first round lasts longer than three hours while every other round is 30 minutes or less. McCabe couldn't believe the pace of the second day, even though he had to sit through only half of the day's first round.
"That was a goal of mine: I didn't want to wait around too long," he said. "It's a good accomplishment, a nice goal, and obviously it's a dream come true to hear my name called."
McCabe will return to Wisconsin and share his journey to the pros with forward Brad Navin, selected by the Sabres in the seventh round last year.
"We have a great team coming up these next couple of years, and we have a legitimate chance of making a run at the national title," McCabe said. "It's a thrill going through this experience with another fellow Buffalo prospect now. That'll be fun."