Like millions before him, Alexander Mogilny said he came to America to make a better life for himself.

"I have to think about the future - about the time when I no longer will be playing hockey," Mogilny, the first Soviet hockey star to defect, said Sunday at his first news conference since arriving inBuffalo. "So thinking about the future, I'm doing what I have to do now while I'm still young and strong."

What he hopes to be doing in the fall is playing for the Buffalo Sabres, who picked the 20-year-old winger in the fifth round of last June's entry draft, the highest a Soviet player has ever been picked.

Buffalo general manager Gerry Meehan, who accompanied Mogilny from Stockholm, where he defected last week after the Soviet National Team won its 21st World Hockey Championship, monitored the questions and refused to allow Mogilny to answer many questions about his saga.

But Mogilny said he felt that he - not officials in the Soviet Union - should be able to decide whether he can play in the NHL.

"Why should they (the Soviet Sports Federation) do my thinking for me?" he asked. "Why should they be the ones to decide?

Soviet hockey officials have indicated they may allow several National Team veterans to come to the NHL next season. But Mogilny, a rising star, undoubtedly would not have been allowed to play in North America for several years, at best.

"I've heard they write that I think only of myself," he said. "But who is thinking about me when I finish playing hockey in the Soviet Union? They don't think about that."

He said he has been considering leaving the Soviet Union for about a year, "but circumstances didn't make it possible. It's very hard to take a step like that. I fought it out with myself for some time."