The Sabres drafted Casey Fitzgerald in June. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Versatility could earn Sabres prospect Casey Fitzgerald spot with USA

BUFFALO – If you ask a hockey prospect who he tries to emulate on the ice, most will name some of the NHL’s top talent, perhaps a superstar.

Then there’s Casey Fitzgerald, a 5-foot-11, 187-pound defenseman the Sabres drafted in the third round, 86th overall, in June.

Years ago, before Fitzgerald’s father, Tom, joined New Jersey’s front office as assistant general manger, he told his son to watch defenseman Andy Greene, the Devils’ captain.

“So I watched him,” the younger Fitzgerald said Monday inside HarborCenter. “I like the way he plays. I think he’s just a solid defenseman, undersized, probably 5-10, undrafted guy. … But now he’s captain of the New Jersey Devils.

“He’s a guy I look up to and emulate. … He’s solid, kind of a jack-of-all trades.”

Fitzgerald, a Boston College sophomore, possesses a similar skill set.

“He’s good on the power play,” said Bob Motzko, Team USA’s coach for the upcoming World Junior Championship. “He’s good on the penalty kill. He’s just very comfortable in every situation that you could find yourself in.”

Fitzgerald, 19, could find himself on the U.S. squad when it begins play Monday against Latvia in Toronto. Right now, he’s one of 24 players and eight defensemen left on the roster, which completed a five-day training camp Tuesday in Buffalo.

One more cut must be made after the Americans let forwards Alex DeBrincat and Logan Brown go Thursday.

Update: Fitzgerald has made the team.

After getting bypassed in the NHL Draft as an 18-year-old, Fitzgerald has quickly developed into a strong prospect.

“It doesn’t change anything getting drafted a year after,” he said. “It’s obviously the same feeling. Not getting drafted the first time around was obviously hard for a kid. … But … I think it helped in the long run.”

On a Boston College team with 13 freshmen, Fitzgerald is relied upon heavily.

“I’m one of the older guys on the back end,” he said. “I’m kind of veteran status.”

But in Buffalo, he’s just a notable prospect. Having spent time here at development camp in July, Fitzgerald, a Boston native, feels comfortable.

“I kind of understand the city and how much hockey a priority is here and they’re die hard hockey fans, so it’s cool to see that because I’m from Boston and hockey’s obviously big there,” Fitzgerald said. “Just as big here.”

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