The 23-year-old was called up from the Rochester Americans in time to make his NHL debut. He'd been Rochester's leading scorer and registered an assist in his first game while racking up two shots and going 3-of-5 on faceoffs in 10:36 of ice time in the 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Not too shabby for someone who was having trouble keeping his lunch down:
"I was extremely nervous before the game. I felt like throwing up before my first shift."
That feeling didn't totally dissipate as the game went on, either:
"There was one or two times where I saw stars when I came off the ice. I'm not sure if it was adrenaline or what."
That youngsters – especially youngsters with any sort of scoring touch – are getting a shot on the last-place Sabres isn't a surprise. Varone was paired with Marcus Foligno and Brian Flynn, who spent time playing with Varone in Rochester as recently as last season.
"It helps knowing how a guy plays," said Flynn, who scored the goal that allowed Varone to register his assist.
Even the veterans were impressed.
"What an opportunity for him," captain Steve Ott said. "I thought his game was pretty awesome."
Varone was fast and in the mix of the play most of the time he was on the ice. He just missed scoring on the play upon which he got his assist, banging a puck into Anton Khudobin while all alone in front of the net.
He was a fifth-round draft pick in 2009 by the San Jose Sharks out of juniors. He spent two more years in juniors – racking up 33 goals in 55 games just down I-90 in Erie with the Otters in 2010-11 – before the Sabres acquired his rights. He's totaled 30 goals and 90 assists in two-plus AHL seasons prior to this call-up.
Varone seems to have done enough to warrant an extended stay in Buffalo. But even Ott admits that might not mean very much in what's been a lost season:
"To be honest, we're in 30th place, and a lot of us are playing for jobs … you can never take a day for granted."
Varone said he has no intention of doing so:
"It was fun. It was exciting. But I wish it would've ended better."
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