He sat in the First Niagara Center stands, listening to the litany of players being drafted into the National Hockey League on Saturday.
Austin Osmanski had told his younger brothers that if the Buffalo Sabres didn’t pick him with one of their back-to-back seventh-round picks, they were leaving.
He closed his eyes.
He heard “Mississauga” and his mom got excited. Hold on, he said. There’s another guy left from the Steelheads. It could be him.
But it wasn’t. It was Osmanski. The 18-year-old from East Aurora, another kid who grew up a Buffalo Sabres fan, was drafted by his hometown team.
The cheers went up and Osmanski had to wipe the corner of his eye.
“I saw my grandpa and he had some tears,” Osmanski said. “I kinda had to hold them back because I don’t think anyone else cried here. For me, a lot came into this so to finally pull it off like this is special.”
The Sabres selected the defenseman with the 189th overall pick. He went to the table to meet the Sabres’ brass and pull on the Blue & Gold sweater.
“Without a Jr. Sabres next to it, it feels a little weird,” Osmanski noted. “But I couldn’t be happier.”
Osmanski played one season for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, splitting the 2014-15 season between the under-16 and under-18 team. Last season, he went to the Ontario Hockey League, notching 10 points for the Mississauga Steelheads and playing with Alexander Nylander – the Sabres’ top pick Friday night.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Osmanski said of Nylander. “I texted him last night. He’s already amazed by the city and stuff like that. He actually texted me today before the draft and said good luck. Last night I came to watch him and he said hopefully Buffalo picks both of us. He kinda called it, right?”
Osmanski was cool and conversational with the Buffalo media, but he was still riding the wave of draft weekend emotions.
“Going into this week, I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen,” Osmanski said. “But this week I had a bunch of interviews, and the confidence was coming up a little bit, and then as the day went on, it kinda dropped a little bit. But now that it’s finally pulled off it’s time to get back to work and my job now is to be a sleeper pick.”
He also pointed out that he’s good friends with Jared Murray – son of Buffalo Sabres General Manager Tim Murray.
“I don’t know if he had anything to do with this or not,” Osmanski said.
Well, he didn’t, Tim Murray said.
“He didn’t play any role at all,” Murray said. “I think when he got back from Mississauga my kid took him to the gym. I think after that day,” Osmanski “knew he had to get at the gym a little harder than what he’s been doing. But my son’s a way lesser player than him; he’s just a better lifter.
“I said to our guys at the table, there is no metric to measure what a local kid – and he wasn’t picked just because he’s local. He does play major junior hockey which is a feeder system to us and he’s a good prospect – but there’s no metric to measure that he’s going to be in this building every day in our gym trying to become a Buffalo Sabre. He’s going to go above and beyond. We’ll see if that materializes into an NHL career or not.”
For his part, Osmanski knows what he has to work on – skating and strength.
“Right now I’m working at the HarborCenter, skating in the morning and working out right after,” Osmanski said. “For me I’m working on my skating because I’m a big guy.”
He is listed at 6-foot-3, 196 pounds.
“If I can figure out the skating part I think I’ll be in pretty good shape,” he said. “I need to work on everything, obviously, but strength is a big part for me. Buffalo stressed that in the interview beforehand for me. The role I play, shut-down D man, I need to be a strong guy. I’m a tall guy, but I’m still a little thin so I’ve got to try to get a little thicker.”