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Early selection catches DeSimone by surprise

Phil DeSimone wanted Saturday to be like any other day.

While many NHL draft prospects donned suits and headed to Nationwide Arena with their eager families, DeSimone got up at 9:30 a.m. and went to the BAC at Eastern Hills for his regular workout. He figured he would get home in time to track the final rounds over the Internet.

That's when DeSimone thought he would hear his name called. Last summer, the East Amherst resident was passed over 213 times. All 30 NHL teams had multiple chances and declined.

Saturday was the last time DeSimone was eligible to be drafted. He was coming off an MVP-type season in the U.S. Hockey League and had a full scholarship to the University of New Hampshire in his back pocket.

But Saturday turned out much better than DeSimone had hoped. The Washington Capitals made the unrated prospect the 84th pick of the draft in Nationwide Arena. His mom was at home. His dad was at work, unable to be reached by phone to hear the news.

"I had no idea I would go that high at all," DeSimone said. "I had no idea what team was going to draft me if anybody. I was clueless."

DeSimone joined Patrick Kane as the only two Western New Yorkers selected this year. Kane became the first local to go first overall when the Chicago Blackhawks took him Friday night.

Niagara forward Chris Moran went undrafted a second straight year and became an unrestricted free agent.

DeSimone finished second in the USHL scoring race with 26 goals and 73 points in 60 games for Sioux City. The 5-foot-11, 193-pound center was voted the league's player of the year.

He said he didn't want to use last year's draft snub as motivation.

"You can't play like that," DeSimone said. "You have to play with a chip on your shoulder every game no matter what, whether you're drafted or not. But I couldn't let that stuff affect me because if you let that stuff get in your head, it becomes more negative than anything else."

DeSimone fully intends to enroll at UNH this fall, but how long he stays there will be up to the Capitals.

"When they feel I'm ready to go pro, that's when I'll go, whether it's two, three or four years," DeSimone said. "Education is a big part, but my goal my whole life is to play in the NHL, and whatever I have to do to get there is what I'm going to do."

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DeSimone wasn't the only one in for a shock Saturday at the draft. When the Buffalo Sabres selected defenseman Drew Schiestel 59th, his father was wandering the concourse.

Peter Schiestel, who came to Columbus from Hamilton, Ont., to enjoy the day with his son, emerged from the tunnel and saw his son's name on the tote board behind the stage. The family's seating area was empty.

"Oh, no. You're kidding me," Peter Schiestel said to himself.

"It's a dad's worst nightmare."

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Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said he received "probably one or two" calls from other teams about players on the roster.

"This draft wasn't about much player movement," Regier said. "It was mostly about flipping picks around."

He added that no teams contacted him about acquiring co-captains Daniel Briere or Chris Drury for the purpose of taking over either center's exclusive negotiating rights before he hits the open market Saturday.

"Our intentions are well-known that we'd like to take the opportunity to sign players down to the wire," Regier said. "I never received any calls, and I never placed any calls."

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He's about as much from Buffalo as Orel Hershiser, but Justin Vaive was also born there. The son of former Sabres forward Rick Vaive was taken by the Philadelphia Flyers with the first pick of the fourth round.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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