The Sabres hosted the inaugural prospects game in September 2012. The game is for American players who be draft-eligible the following summer. Seth Jones played in the 2012 game before the Nashville Predators drafted him fourth overall last July.
The Sabres also hosted the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship, which USA Hockey Execitive Director Dave Ogrean called the most successful event his agency has ever hosted. Plus numerous Western New York players, including Patrick Kane and Ryan Callahan, will play in next month's Winter Olympics.
"This is a part of the world that's got a lot of the USA Hockey DNA in it," he said.
Having the new HARBORCENTER to play in come 2015 will be an added benefit, he said. Sabres management has said it wants the new two-rink complex across the street from the First Niagara Center to become a venue for national hockey showcases of all types. Ogrean think it can live up to that:
"This will be a facility like no other … I think this is a city where we're going to be coming back to more and more frequently."
Last year's prospects game took place in Pittsburgh. But Sabres management said having it back in Buffalo will help inspire more Western New York players to strive for great things in their hockey careers.
"We appreciate the trust that USA Hockey has placed with us," said Ted Black, Sabres president.
Sabres management ironically has two significant ties to USA Hockey. President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine was a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. And Sabres adviser Craig Patrick was the assistant coach for the 1980 gold medal-winning Olympic team in Lake Placid. And Sabres goalie Ryan Miller will play in his second Olympics next month for the United States.
Black reiterated the team's stance that the club and HARBORCENTER will continue to foster youth players at all levels and will look to bring big-time amateur hockey to the Buffalo area: He said the Sabres are interested in bringing the World Junior Championships back to Buffalo in 2018, the next time the event can be played in the United States; Ogrean said Buffalo stacks up "very, very well" in regards of being a repeat host. But there's no intention of waiting that long to continue fostering amateur hockey in the Buffalo area.
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