23-Year-Old Center – Buffalo Sabres
Zemgus Girgensons Contract Information:
Signed a one-year, $1.15 million contract with the Sabres in September of 2016.
Girgensons scored the game-winning goal in the 10th round of the shootout against Anaheim on Friday.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
At 21 years old, Girgensons has already seen a lot in his young career. He developed a cult following in his native Latvia that got him voted into the NHL All-Star Game as a starter this past season. And the hard-hitting center even has a rap song named after him. On the ice, his reputation as a power center is growing steadily. He delivered 15 goals and 127 hits in just 61 games last season, and will benefit significantly from the insulation that now comes with the improvements of the Sabres’ forward group. In 2015-16, he’ll likely slot into the third-line center role, where he should form a formidable line with Marcus Foligno and Johan Larsson. The former will bring grit; the latter will bring skill. And that combination should allow Girgensons to repeat -- and perhaps incrementally increase -- his production from 2014-15.
At just 20 years old, Girgensons is seen as one of the league’s best young two-way players. A complete player who can skate, hit and contribute offensively, he is slated to be one of Buffalo’s top centers and could become the team’s best player by the end of the season. The 14th overall pick from 2012, Girgensons should only improve upon his 22-point rookie campaign. Buffalo is short on NHL-caliber centers, which means the burden on Girgensons could be even greater. Having performed admirably for Latvia at the Winter Olympics, he doesn’t seem to be the type to shirk extra responsibility. What Girgensons lacks in high-end skill, he more than makes up for with a hard work ethic.
Girgensons played in the AHL as a teenager last season, scoring 17 points in 61 games with the Sabres’ affiliate in Rochester. The 2012 first-round pick took some time to adjust to pro hockey, but really turned a corner near the end of the season, leading Rochester with three goals in three playoff games. After a strong summer development camp, he heads to training camp attempting to win a roster spot with the big club. Those in keeper leagues should keep an eye on the 19-year old Latvian, as his combination of size and skill make him a tantalizing prospect. If he doesn’t break camp with the Sabres, he’ll likely be called up to show his stuff at some point during the season.
Girgensons spurned a college career with the University of Vermont to sign an entry-level deal with the Sabres. He was the 14th overall selection in June's entry draft and will certainly have a shot at breaking camp with the Sabres. Have a close look at him in keeper leagues, but the Latvian pivot will likely benefit from some seasoning with the Sabres' AHL affiliate in Rochester. Girgensons put 55 points in 49 with Dubuque of the USHL. The Sabres will have to decide whether it's better to have him on the NHL roster or playing regularly in the AHL.