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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Seven Western New York hockey players were among the 90 players aged 15 and 16 selected in the United States Hockey League’s 2011 Futures Draft on April 19, with three players from the Buffalo Regals 16-and-under team selected in the top 11 picks.

It was the first time three players from any WNY team have ever been selected in the first 11 picks of the draft. The Regals had five players selected in total, tying Detroit Honeybaked and Team Illinois for most players drafted.

The seven WNY players selected in the 2011 USHL Futures Draft are:
1 4 (4) Patrick Polino Buffalo Regals 16U Chicago Steel
1 9 (9) Dylan McLaughlin Buffalo Regals 16U Sioux Falls Stampede
1 11 (11) Justin Bailey Buffalo Regals 16U Indiana Ice
2 8 (38) Kyle Eastman Buffalo Regals 16U Tri-City Storm
3 4 (49) Sean Malone Nichols School Lincoln Stars
3 9 (54) Joey Palumbo Buffalo Regals 16U Des Moines Buccaneers
5 1 (61) Wilson Vershay Nichols School Waterloo Black Hawks

Beginning next year, the Buffalo Regals 16- and 18-and-under teams will be known as the Buffalo Junior Sabres 16U and 18U, following their recent sponsorship by the Buffalo Sabres. Of the players selected in the Futures Draft, three (McLaughlin, Bailey and Eastman) will play for the Buffalo Junior Sabres 18U team next year. The Chicago Steel have already indicated that fourth-overall pick Polino will join their club next year.

Of the 90 players selected in the Futures Draft, 39 (43%) were selected from the Tier I Elite League, the league in which the Buffalo Junior Sabres U16 and U18 teams compete. The league with the next most selections had only nine players selected.

The USHL is the only Tier I junior league in the United States. Its teams are made up of players aged 20 years old or younger at the beginning the season. The main purpose of the USHL is to help players, coaches and officials advance their careers to the college and professional level.

Each year, the USHL holds a six-round “Futures Draft” for players aged 15-16. This year’s draft was comprised of players born in 1995, with 15 teams selecting players to add to their affiliate lists – a list of 13 players that a team is allowed to protect in addition to their 23-man active roster.

There are currently more than 150 USHL alumni under contract with an NHL team, including three current Sabres players (Chris Butler, Nathan Gerbe and Thomas Vanek) and six Sabres prospects (Tim Conboy, Dennis McCauley, Colin Stuart, Corey Tropp, Travis Turnbull and Derek Whitmore).
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