The eyes of the pro hockey world were focused on Buffalo as the city hosted the first round of the 2016 National Hockey League Draft inside First Niagara Center on Friday evening. The hometown team, with the eighth overall pick, selected forward Alexander Nylander, who comes from a family of NHL pedigree.
Nylander, who played for the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League in the 2015-16 season, is the son of retired NHL player Michael Nylander. His brother, William, is a member of one of the Sabres' biggest rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
During his first media "Q & A" as an NHL draft pick, Nylander looked forward to the prospect of his sibling rivalry making the Sabres-Leafs matchups more interesting.
"It's going to be a lot of fun playing with my brother. The rivalry is really big," Nylander said. "It's just going to be a lot of fun playing with the Buffalo Sabres one day, too."
Nylander says he had a "really good feeling" about the Sabres and his chances of being picked by Buffalo after being interviewed by the team prior to the draft. But he also acknowledged that he has to make the team, one that he sees on an upswing.
"Got a lot of young players. It's a really good team. They're trying to build up now. They're really going to be good for next year," Nylander said.
The Sabres' rivals surprised absolutely no one in First Niagara Center by selecting American player Auston Matthews with the first-overall pick. Matthews, who was born in Arizona, developed his hockey skills by playing for the Zürcher Schlittschuh Club Lions in Switzerland's premier league.
Any thoughts of Leafs fans taking over First Niagara Center were quickly put to rest. While there were numerous Toronto fans in the seats, their cheers were drowned out by loud boos from Buffalo Sabres fans when the team was introduced.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also drew boos from the fans in attendance when he first walked up to the podium. He gained a temporary break from those boos when he announced that the league's Player Combine, the pre-draft workout and prospect interview sessions which have been hosted in Buffalo for the past two years, will return to the city in 2017.
Sabres co-owner Terry Pegula, meanwhile, drew loud cheers when he was introduced to make opening remarks.
"Welcome to the Buffalo Sabres nation," Pegula declared. "From Northern Pennsylvania, Western New York and Southern Ontario, we appreciate your passion and support."
Rounds Two through Seven were scheduled for Saturday inside First Niagara Center.
Earlier in the afternoon, as NHL officials, prospects and their families, local and national media and spectators were first making their way to First Niagara Center, Canalside was hosting the NHL Draft Fan Fest, which provided fans with interactive games for kids, live music and all the other elements of a festival setting.