A three-zone force blending speed and tight checking, Zemgus Girgensons rounds out his power forward tool kit with old-fashioned desire and an ability to score. The 2012 first-rounder toiled in the AHL as an 18-year old in 2012-13, collecting 20 points (9+11) in 64 games including the playoffs. Perhaps more important than any offensive statistics, though, was his clear adjustment to the speed and physical style of the pro game.
Girgensons sees the ice well, has excellent lateral movement, and takes the puck to the net with authority. But his greatest asset comes in the form of a no-quit work ethic. He fearlessly enters traffic to make a play. He supplies energy by finishing every hit. He gladly slides to block shots. It all added up to Girgensons commanding an increased role on the farm as his rookie year progressed. Continuing to lead by example while refining his high level of skill under Ron Rolston’s staff should bode well for both team and player for many years to come.
The hard-driving Girgensons is front and center as the Sabres solidify a new core up front. Whether it’s as a centerman or a winger, his talent and intensity should develop into a top-six NHL forward who can provide consistent physical play, spark his club with a much-needed goal, and hop over the boards for key defensive zone starts. Forecasting elite offensive production could be risky, but the thought is that Girgensons’ success will be fueled by effort and attitude similar to Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown, making him a valuable piece to a team looking to become difficult to play against.