Sabres take a look at Varone

The Buffalo Sabres have invited former OHL standout Phil Varone to participate in this week's summer development camp. A heady player with excellent hands and vision, the 20-year old Varone is in the job market after not being offered a contract by the San Jose Sharks, who had previously selected him in the fifth round of the 2009 draft.

Varone, a 5'10, 180-pound center, scored 34 goals and 82 points (t21st in OHL) this past season with Erie before leading the club with three goals and 10 assists in the Otters' first round loss to the Windsor Spitfires. The spralkling post-season performance came two years removed from his initial playoff revelation when he potted 10 goals and 19 points in 14 games for a loaded London Knights club that included John Tavares, Nazem Kadri, John Carlson, and Michael Del Zotto.

After mid-season shoulder surgery limited his 2009-10 campaign to just 31 games (9+22), London shipped the overage Varone to Erie last October for a pair of draft picks. His productive tenure with the Otters kept him on the pro radar, but it seems that his below-average size and perhaps injury concerns made the Sharks apprehensive about using a contract on the talented center. Varone re-entered the 2011 draft but was not picked.

Varone, the Otters 2010-11 MVP, has the key components for an organizational depth role. He is an excellent leader, a good distributor, and a clutch shooter. He's not ultra aggressive but he's tough, and has a history of elevating the play of his linemates.

The Sabres could use an offensive spark on the farm after trading Paul Byron to Calgary so perhaps they see Varone as hard-working creator that can step right in while awaiting the development of their current CHL crop. Two of last year's AHL centers, Matt Ellis and Brian Roloff, are currently free agents while a third, Travis Turnbull, was recently tendered a qualifying offer to continue his work in Rochester for the 2011-12 season.
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