SUNRISE, Fla. -- West Seneca native Sean Malone, who just completed a strong senior year at Harvard in the NCAA Frozen Four, has signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres and will make his NHL debut Saturday night against the Florida Panthers in BB&T Center.
Malone, a 6-foot, 190-pound center, was a sixth-round draft choice in 2013. He's had a whirlwind 48 hours, with Harvard's last-minute loss to Minnesota-Duluth in the national semfinals coming Thursday in Chicago. He flew back to Boston Friday, the contract was arranged and Malone was on a 5 a.m. flight here Saturday.
"It sort of took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting it," Malone said after today's morning skate. "At the end of the day, when you're a kid growing up in that area, your dream is to wear the blue and gold. Fortunately I was able to do that tonight and I'm really excited for the opportunity.
"It's definitely surreal. Hanging out with these guys who have played here all year, it's really cool to see what they're going through. Talking to those guys, it's helping me get adjusted here and I'm looking forward to this."
Malone is replacing Marcus Foligno (knee) in the Buffalo lineup. He's going to open the game centering Zemgus Girgensons and Nicolas Deslauriers.
"Just seeing Sean take some faceoffs out there against Ryan O'Reilly, he fared OK against our best guy," said coach Dan Bylsma. "So it may give him more opportunity in the game if that's the case."
Malone finished third on the Harvard roster this year with 42 points in 36 games. He had 18 goals and 27 assists as the Crimson advanced to the national semifinals. Their 2-1 loss to Duluth came on a goal by Eden native Alex Iafallo. Malone was one of two Harvard players to hit the crossbar in the final 20 seconds during a desperate push for a tying goal.
"I really liked our response there," Malone said. "We had 30 seconds left and there was no doubt we were going to score that goal. It's definitely something I'll think about for a while."
Malone finished his collegiate career with 99 points (42 goals) and had a plus-31 rating in 115 games. He was the Ivy League’s Co-Rookie of the Year in 2014.
"Our team accomplished a lot and we had a chance to be one of the most decorated teams in Harvard hockey history," Malone said. "To come up short is tough. The national championship was the main goal we set at the beginning of the year. Fortunately, we were able to win the Beanpot, ECAC regular season, ECAC title and Ivy League championship.
"It was really fun to be a part of. We were not very good when I was a freshman and to see it all come together at the end was pretty special. I thought it was a great year and those guys will be my brothers for life."