BUFFALO - Do you remember Joel Armia as a member of the Sabres? Well, that's where his NHL journey began.
Long before Armia was scoring goals for Winnipeg and Montreal, he was Buffalo's first-round selection (16th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Fortunately for the then 18-year-old Finn, he didn't have to wait very long to be plucked from the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.
At the time, Armia was an attractive commodity with his 6-foot-3, 191-pound frame and a solid rookie campaign with Ässät in the Finnish Elite League under his belt.
The Pori native was the fourth-ranked international skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings heading into the annual event.
"It was a happy moment. It was a good thing," recalled Armia, of his selection just ahead of defenseman Nathan Beaulieu (17th overall) by the Canadiens. "I still remember being there with my family and my agent."
Several years would pass, though, before Armia made his NHL debut.
It came on December 23, 2014 against the Red Wings in Detroit, and it was his lone appearance in a Sabres uniform.
"I remember I got called up later in the day from Rochester (AHL). I flew to Detroit and I got there around 2:00 a.m., and then I had to play the next day," reminisced Armia. "You're always happy when you get a call like that. It was really fun. I was a little nervous playing my first NHL game. I was actually sent down right after, so I had to get back to work."
Armia and the Sabres didn't come away victorious in the Motor City that night, falling 6-3 at Joe Louis Arena. His future teammate Tomas Tatar scored a pair of power play goals for the Red Wings.
But he'll always cherish the experience of going head-to-head with a former superstar.
"I think I played pretty much the whole game against Pavel Datsyuk. That was probably the coolest memory from the game," said Armia, who dished out four hits while logging 14:47 of ice time in the loss. "I always liked to see him play."
These days, Armia enjoys when the Canadiens stop in Buffalo.
It reminds him of past visits to Western New York when he was still in the Sabres organization.
"It's kind of fun to see some familiar things when I first came there," mentioned Armia. "It kind of brings some little memories back. It's also a fun rink to play at."
Interestingly enough, the six-year NHL veteran has more goals against the Sabres over the course of his career than any other team with five.
And every single one of them was scored at the KeyBank Center.
As for his Sabres gear, everything's proudly on display overseas.
"It's all at home. I tried to keep all the jerseys I wore from every team," he concluded. "It's up there on the wall with all the other jerseys."