The Buffalo Sabres began investing in -- and ultimately purchased -- the Junior Sabres with the hope it would help Western New Yorkers develop and advance their hockey careers. Proof that it's working came Saturday during the second round of the NHL draft.
The Phoenix Coyotes used the 52nd overall pick on Phil Lane, a Rochester native and Junior Sabres alumnus. Lane spent the 2008-09 season in Buffalo before joining Brampton of the Ontario Hockey League last year.
Lane acknowledged the role the Junior Sabres played in his ascension to NHL draft pick.
"It really helped me a lot to develop a little bit and make the jump to the OHL," he said in Staples Center. "It made me a lot more comfortable with the OHL and definitely did give me more confidence in my game and helped me improve."
Another Buffalo connection came in the sixth round when Pittsburgh selected Lancaster's Joe Rogalski. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound, 18-year-old has spent three seasons playing defense for Sarnia of the OHL.
Lane is a 6-2, 194-pound winger who recorded 18 goals and 38 points in 64 games with Brampton at age 17. He turned 18 last month and is eager for his next season in Canadian juniors.
"The second half of the season I definitely stepped up my game," Lane said. "I started using my body more to my advantage and started playing with a little more edge to my game.
"I just played juniors in Buffalo for a year to develop and wait it out for my options, whether it was college or if I did want the OHL. I chose the OHL because I thought the OHL served my style of play more, and it definitely mimics an NHL season."
Lane, who participated in the Scotty Bowman Showcase in HSBC Arena two years ago, grew up attending Rochester Americans games. After hitting it off with the Coyotes during an interview with Director of Amateur Scouting Keith Gretzky, he'll likely have the chance to play in a few against them in a couple of years.
"It's always been my dream to play there one day in the AHL, and maybe in the NHL," Lane said. "I'm just kind of shocked they picked me in the second round. I'm very excited about it."