@mirtle: Sabres announce signing 2012 draft pick Zemgus Girgensons on a three-year, entry-level contract.
Sometimes news shocks. Other times, it’s more of a foregone conclusion.
The latter is true with news today out of Vermont that Zemgus Girgensons has signed an entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres and will be playing for the Rochester Americans this season.
Girgensons, 18, was the 14th overall pick in the NHL draft in June. The Sabres traded up from No. 21 to select the Latvian-born centerman (he can also play the wing).
He initially seemed set on going to Vermont — even though that was very likely only going to be a one-year stint since he would have signed in the summer of 2013. But I think any thoughts of college definitely changed this week at the Sabres development camp.
Once he learned where he stood physically against other young pros, I think he knew this is where he should be. The vibes I sensed in speaking with him on Monday and again on Thursday made it seem pretty clear he wanted to be a professional hockey player now.
Who knows? Maybe the Navy SEALs made up his mind when he realized he could handle whatever they dished out. Of the early morning training sessions the Sabres prospects endured with the SEALs, Girgensons said, “I don’t think it was that hard; the hardest part is getting up at 4:30 a.m.”
The University of Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon announced today that Girgensons wouldn’t be joining the Catamounts and instead had signed with the Sabres. The team has yet to make an announcement but it surely is coming soon. (UPDATE: Confirmation came at 2:12 p.m.)
The Vermont announcement also included a statement from Girgensons: “This was a very difficult decision for me to say the least. I always felt that the NCAA was the best way for me to develop on and off the ice. After attending the Buffalo Sabres camp, and learning their plans for me, I feel I am ready to begin my professional career.”
On Monday evening I spoke with Girgensons’ coach the past two seasons, Jim Montgomery. He guided and taught Girgensons with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League.
Montgomery was an AHL star for seven of his 12 pro seasons (Hershey Bears, Philadelphia Phantoms, Kentucky Thoroughblades) and is well aware what it takes to play in the league. He said Girgensons is ready not only physically but mentally.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff also believes from a physical standpoint, Girgensons is ready for the AHL. “He already has a man-body. He likes to hit, he likes to play physical.”
Girgensons is a power forward who has very good hands. As an 18-year-old (he turns 19 on Jan. 5), he probably won’t be a big scorer. But he is an energetic player who plays the body and will contribute in many ways, Montgomery believes.
Montgomery said Girgensons “isn’t a person who needs to score to know he’s contributing to the team. He plays down low, he can penalty kill, he’ll block shots. I think he can help a team playing eight minutes or 20 minutes. He’ll do whatever the team needs.”
He’ll also be in perfect hands with Ron Rolston as the Amerks coach. Before he became the Sabres development coach in the summer of 2011, Rolston made a living coaching collegians for 13 years and then 17- and 18-year-olds for seven years with the National Team Development Program.
Girgensons will not be rushed, and he will not be put in situations where failure is certain. He definitely won’t be coddled, either, but his long-term development will very much be part of the equation as his role(s) with the is defined and grows.
Edited by Pekka Rinne, 13 July 2012 - 11:20 AM.