BUFFALO — Travis Turnbull said he never stopped believing he’d crack the NHL someday. Still, the odds looked stacked against the undrafted center. The Sabres possess a slew of talented youngsters and high-priced veterans in Rochester.
The 25-year-old Turnbull’s name has rarely popped up as a prospect since he was inked out of the University of Michigan in 2009.
The Sabres had already summoned six forwards from the AHL this season when Turnbull’s phone rang Tuesday night. It was Rochester coach Ron Rolston.
“I kind of had the feeling that was why he was calling me,” Turnbull said Wednesday inside the First Niagara Center prior to making his NHL debut in the Sabres’ 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. “It was probably the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Eight Sabres have made their first NHL appearance this season. Turnbull called making the big leagues “so surreal.”
“The feeling is nothing that I’ve never really felt before,” he said. “It’s something that each and every one of us has worked our entire life (for). To finally be here and get an opportunity to play for the Sabres is unbelievable.”
The first person Turnbull called after receiving the special news? His father, Perry Turnbull, who played 608 NHL games with St. Louis, Montreal and Winnipeg in the 1970s and 80s.
“He was pretty excited. He didn’t act like he was that excited, but I know he was,” Travis Turnbull said. “He was just kind of like, ‘That’s awesome. I’m so happy for you and proud of you.’”
Patrick Kaleta’s injury (upper body) necessitated the recall. Turnbull, 6-feet and 193 pounds, showcases a similar physical style to the hard-hitting winger.
“I just try to bring a lot of energy, be physical, good defensively and also I can score some goals, too,” said Turnbull, who had 12 goals, 27 points and 94 penalty minutes in 53 games with Rochester.