Rochester Americans forward Phil Varone has led his club in scoring two of the past three years. He has scored a number of overtime-winning goals, been named by his teammates as the Amerks MVP and even scored a few goals at the National Hockey League level.
WACTH: PHIL VARONE HIGHLIGHTS
There is one thing Varone hasn’t done, however; he has never been an AHL All-Star.
Until this season.
Varone was announced as the lone Amerks representative for the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic in Utica, N.Y. this weekend. Currently in his fourth season with the Amerks, Varone is turning in arguably his best campaign with 30 points in 38 games played. His 21 assists rank in the top 20 in the AHL.
While participating in the All-Star Classic will be a fresh experience, Varone doesn’t expect to be caught off guard by any of the festivities.
“I’ve watched it on TV, and watched the NHL Skills Competition on TV, so I don’t expect it to be any different,” Varone said. “I’m sure the city is excited. It’s going to be a packed house and it’s going to be pretty cool.”
Prior to the actual game on Monday, the players will suit up for the Skills Competition Sunday night to showcase various events, including fastest skater and hardest shot. Varone doesn’t quite know what events he will be involved in yet, but hopes to participate in a contest more to his liking.
“Nothing that involves me skating,” Varone said with a laugh. “Maybe some shooting. No fastest skater, because I’ll get blown out of the water.”
Varone has spent a majority of the past few weeks on recall with the Buffalo Sabres, where he has posted two goals in seven games. With the Sabres playing their last game prior to the NHL All-Star break last Sunday, the break in the schedule allowed Varone to return to Rochester just in time for the AHL All-Star Classic, along with the Amerks final two games prior to the break.
“I was kind of expecting to come back [to Rochester] anyway,” Varone said earlier this week. “I’ll worry about the two games this weekend and try to get some wins because we need them right now. I’ll worry about those, worry about the All-Star game, and go from there.”
He certainly played a role in getting the Amerks another win before the break, as Varone scored the game-winning goal in the final minutes of regulation in the team's 3-2 victory over Adirondack on Friday.
NHL jobs likely won’t be won in the AHL’s All-Star Game, but Varone believes the weekend provides a good atmosphere for the AHL’s best to showcase their talents.
“It’s more for the fans to appreciate the skill that is in the AHL,” Varone said. Guys that hopefully will make a career in the NHL, and it gives them a pre-look at the younger guys.
“It’s a new experience, and something to dip my feet into that I haven’t done before.”
Varone called his selection to the All-Star game “something that looks nice on the resume”, and while he is excited for the opportunity, still has his sights set on helping the Amerks win hockey games after the break.
“My main focus when I am here is to get this team into the playoffs,” Varone said. “I don’t think I’ve been able to do that the way I’ve wanted to.”
“I thought I’ve played pretty well, but I know I still have more. There is still more I want to check off the list.”
One thing Varone will be able to scratch off that list is playing in an All-Star game.