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Buffalo-area native Patrick Kaleta among Buffalo Sabres draft picks Sunday

posted June 27 @ 16:27, EST

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Growing up just outside of Buffalo, Patrick Kaleta has been a Sabres fan for as long as he can remember. Now he'll have a chance to make the team.

Selected 176th overall, Kaleta was one of five players chosen by the Sabres in completing the NHL draft in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday.

"I don't think it's sunk in yet," said Kaleta, a native of Angola, N.Y. "I'm still in awe."

Kaleta, who turned 18 earlier this month, is a self-described "crash-and-banger," who completed his second season with the Ontario Hockey League Peterborough Petes.

He finished with 14 goals, 14 assists, and 124 penalty minutes in 67 games last season. That's up from the seven goals, nine assists and 67 penalty minutes he had as a rookie.

Ranked 161st among draft-eligible North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Kaleta was hoping he would be among the players selected this weekend.

His wait ended when a call came from his agent informing Kaleta he had been taken by Buffalo. That was soon followed by a call from Sabres general manager Darcy Regier.

Now it's up to Kaleta to continue developing his game at the junior level in order to further impress the Sabres.

"It's just the next step up the ladder," he said.

Jim Benning, Sabres director of amateur scouting, described Kaleta as "a typical Sabre," along the lines of former blue-collar players such as Vaclav Varada.

"He works hard. He competes hard every night. He hits," Benning said.

The Sabres opened the two-day draft on Saturday by selecting two-way University of North Dakota forward Drew Stafford with the No. 13 pick. They then shifted to defence, choosing blue-liners Michael Funk and Andrej Sekera in the next two rounds.

Buffalo opened Sunday's portion of the draft by selecting Slovak goaltender Michal Valent in the fifth round, 145th overall.

Central Scouting had Valent ranked third among European goaltenders eligible for the draft. He's coming off a promising season with Martin of the Slovak Junior League, in which he had a 3.24 goals-against average, a 90.6 save percentage and recorded one shutout in 38 games last season.

Valent would be considered a long-term project, as the Sabres are currently set at goalie, with Martin Biron and Mika Noronen sharing starting duties last year, and former Michigan State star Ryan Miller developing in the minors.

After selecting Kaleta in the sixth round, Buffalo completed the draft by choosing three Canadian juniors: forward Mark Mancari of London, Ont., 207th overall, defenceman Mike Card of Kitchener, Ont., 241st, and forward Dylan Hunter of London, Ont., 273rd.

Mancari completed his third year with OHL Ottawa, where he had 29 goals and 36 assists to finish second on the team with 65 points last season. He's also noted for his size, listed at six-foot-three and 225 pounds.

Card had a promising rookie year with Western Hockey League's Kelowna Rockets, recording seven goals and 22 assists in 61 games in 2002-03. But his output dropped off this past season, which he finished with six goals and 12 assists in 72 games.

Hunter, the son of former NHL veteran Dale Hunter, posted career highs this past season, his third with the OHL's London Knights, in which he had 26 goals, 53 assists in 64 games to finish third on the team with 79 points.
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