2008-09: Phil Varone scored 19 goals and 33 assists, alongside 32 penalty minutes in 58 games for the London Knights in his second OHL season. Ranked 172nd among North American skaters in the Central Scouting final rankings he was selected by San Jose in the fifth round (147th overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft.
2009-10: Varone had an injury shortened season. He played in only 31 games for the London Knights(OHL). Varone did score at a point-per-game pace when healthy, finishing with 9 goals and 22 assists.
2010-11: Varone attended the Sharks’ camp before returning to London for an overage season. With a limit on overage players, he was traded to Erie in October 2010. After scoring 1 goal in four games with the Knights, Varone was a key player for an Otters team that won 40 games for the first time since 2001-02. He was the second-leading scorer with 33 goals and 81 assists in 55 games and was plus-22 with 30 penalty minutes. The Otters finished third in the Midwest Division before losing to defending Memorial Cup champion Windsor in a tight seven-game series. Varone was Erie’s leading scorer in the playoffs, finishing with 3 goals and 10 assists in seven games. He was not signed to a contract by San Jose in June 2011, becoming an unrestricted free agent.
2011-12: Varone was signed to an AHL contract by the Rochester Americans after attending Buffalo’s training camp. He was the leading scorer for the Sabres’ affiliate, scoring 11 goals with 41 assists, and was plus-17 with 42 penalty minutes in 76 games. The Amerks finished second in the North Division. Varone and Marcus Foligno each scored 1 goal with 2 assists to lead the Amerks in scoring in the three-game playoff series with Toronto. The Sabres signed him to a three-year entry-level contract in March, 2012.
2012-13: Varone skated in 62 games for Buffalo’s AHL affiliate in Rochester in his second pro season. A healthy scratch at times early in the season due to the NHL lockout, he scored 11 goals with 24 assists and was -3 with 42 penalty minutes. The Americans finished second in the North Division and were swept by first place Toronto in the first round of the playoffs. Varone played in all three playoff games and was -4 with no points and 2 penalty minutes.
2013-14: Varone made his NHL debut with Buffalo on January 23rd in a game against the Hurricanes and skated in nine games with the Sabres during a mid-season call-up; spending the majority of the season with AHL affiliate Rochester. He scored 1 goal with 1 assist and was -3 with 4 penalty minutes, averaging 11:24 minutes of ice time while with the Sabres. Varone led Rochester in points (61) and assists (43) in his third season with the Americans. He scored 18 goals and was -1 with 58 penalty minutes in 69 regular season games. Rochester finished second in the North Division and lost to Chicago in a first-round playoff series. Varone had 3 assists and was -3 with no penalties in five playoff games.
2014-15: Varone spent the first half of the year with Sabres’ AHL affiliate Rochester before being recalled in January. He skated in seven mid-season games with Buffalo before being returned to Rochester on January 19th and was recalled by the Sabres at the end of February. Varone saw a bit more ice time with the Sabres, averaging over 14 minutes per game, and led Rochester in scoring for the second straight year.
Varone has been a consistent scorer at the AHL level during his pro career but has yet to show that same offensive consistency in the NHL. Whether that is because of the limits of his game or because he has had a lack of opportunity is a point of contention among scouts. Some say that, despite his small stature, he is slick and skilled enough to be a top-six playmaker in the NHL, with a Daniel Briere-like ability to elevate his game when it matters most. Others say that Varone is destined to top out as an AHL scorer.
Varone spent the bulk of the 2014-15 season in the AHL before joining Buffalo late in the year. Completing the third year of his original entry-level contract, he is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent if not tendered a qualifying offer by the Sabres by July 2015. His is a talented offensive player who has steadily put up numbers in the AHL but has yet to crack the NHL lineup on a permanent basis. Varone's skill set suggests he can have some value as a lower line center and potential power play option. It is equally likely that he peaks as one of the top centers for an AHL club or heads to Europe.