BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Dubuque Fighting Saints defenseman Michael Downing grew up about five hours away in Canton, Mich., but he'll have a pretty solid cheering section at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, thanks to one of his old teammates.
Zemgus Girgensons, a 2012 first-round NHL Draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, was in attendance here at First Niagara Center prior to heading to Rochester for training camp with the Sabres' American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans.
Girgensons chatted with Downing briefly prior to Saturday's game and gave him the benefit of his experience in dealing with the pressure of a player's NHL-draft season.
"I spoke to him today and I told him to not worry about it that much," Girgensons told NHL.com. "Just another year to help your team and just focus on your game and not think about the draft."
In addition to dealing with the pressure of being watched by more than 100 NHL scouts and general managers, Downing is dealing with the disappointment of his brother, Jake, being traded by Dubuque to Sioux City during the offseason.
"Coach Monty [Jim Montgomery] told me to talk to him and tell him not to worry about it," Girgensons said. "I just told him don't worry about it, keep it in the back of your head. That's the easiest one."
Girgensons also gave a scouting report for fans who haven't seen Downing -- an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players-to-watch list -- in action.
"He's a big-size kid [6-foot-2.75, 190]," he said. "I think there's a lot of big kids out there tonight, but he's a really tough player. He's really good in the defensive zone, has a bomb for a shot. I think he's more of a defensive defenseman."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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