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Newcomer Dan O'Regan hopes comfort with Amerks leads to spot with Sabres

TAMPA, Fla. – Dan O'Regan walked into the Rochester dressing room, and it was more reunion than morning skate.

Over there was Colin Blackwell, who was O'Regan's roommate last year in San Jose. In that corner was Sahir Gill, a former teammate at Boston University. One pack included Kyle Criscuolo and Sean Malone, who played at Harvard with O'Regan's brother, Tommy. There were five others who joined O'Regan at Evan Rodrigues' wedding last summer.

"I'm really comfortable in the locker room," O'Regan said.

He and the Buffalo Sabres hope that comfort leads to more development.

The Sabres' newest prospect made his debut with the Rochester Americans on Wednesday, recording no points or shots in a 2-1 overtime loss to Bridgeport. The right winger skated with Gill and Amerks captain Kevin Porter after flying in from San Jose following Monday's trade that sent Evander Kane to the Sharks.

"Joining the Sabres' organization, there's a lot of good young players," O'Regan told the Rochester media. "You see Rochester's doing well this year, and they’ve just got a good core of young guys. I'm just excited to hopefully make an impact on the team."

The 24-year-old has made an impact during his two professional seasons. He was the American Hockey League Rookie of the Year last season, putting up 23 goals and 58 points in 63 games. He had seven goals and 25 points in 31 minor-league games this year, plus no goals and four assists in 19 NHL games.

Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill said he'll let O'Regan get settled in Rochester before contemplating a call-up, which could be good for the forward's mind.

"I was up and down a lot," O'Regan said of this season's recalls. "I was up and down maybe four or five times, and that can sometimes take a toll on you mentally, just kind of adjusting, transitioning, getting excited and then let down a little.

"But I think everything that has happened this year has helped me develop and gotten me ready for hopefully a good end of the year here."

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The Sharks selected O'Regan in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft, and he spent the next four years producing at BU. He had 66 goals and 154 points in 154 games, including 23 goals and 50 points in 41 games as linemates with the Sabres' duo of Rodrigues and Jack Eichel in 2014-15.

They were among those to reach out after the trade, which came while O'Regan was on the ice practicing with the San Jose Barracuda.

"Just packing up your whole life and leaving some of it in San Jose is tough, but I'm just excited," said the Massachusetts native. "I'm closer to home, so I've got some family that's maybe only a six-hour drive instead of a six-hour flight now."

O'Regan is excited to see the Amerks firmly in a playoff spot despite a 3-7-8 slide. He had four goals and seven points in 15 playoff games for San Jose last year.

"Who knows?" he said. "Maybe I'll provide a spark for the guys."

If he does, the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder could make a visit to Buffalo before the end of the year and reunite with Eichel and Rodrigues.

"That's the goal eventually to try to get up there," O'Regan said. "If that line ever happened again, that'd be fun. Right now I'm in this locker room looking around. There's a lot of great players, and nothing's going to be given to anyone.

"While there's a lot of opportunity, I've definitely just got to work hard and earn it."

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