His hockey status in the fall was a topic of many interviews during Buffalo Sabres Development Camp, which after the last day, Girgensons announced he would be talking with Darcy Regier regarding his decision. That decision ended up as a three-year entry level contract worth a maximum $925,000 per year. Now, the options that lie ahead of Girgensons are:
- Playing in the NHL
- Playing in the AHL
- Playing in the AHL, but if he struggles, going to the WHL and unable to return to the AHL until he turns 20 on January 5th, 2014
More than likely, we will be seeing Girgensons start his pro-hockey career in the AHL with the Rochester Americans, but as it stands, Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier have quite a bit of confidence in his abilities. Regier commented to the media after the signing, “We think that he’s a prototype NHL player, Buffalo Sabre player and will be able to make that transition from the USHL to professional hockey [...] And we’re confident he’ll do well at the pro level.” Ruff had similar things to say regarding Girgensons and his “man-body”.
The compliments don’t stop there. Jim Montgomery, head coach of the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, praised Girgenson’s work ethic, physicality, and competitiveness. If you’re going to clue in on just one quote from Kevin Snow’s article, let it be this one:
He’s the kind of player you win hockey games with, in every facet of the game. He plays all three zones, all 200 feet of ice. And he’s responsible in all areas of the game. So much so, that people talk about his competitiveness and physicality, and they think his skill level is somewhat behind. But I think it’s because people just notice that other stuff so much, they just don’t realize how good his skill level really is.
At 6’2″ and nearly 200 lbs, Zemgus Girgensons isn’t exactly a small guy. As captain of the Dubuque Fighting Saints last season, he played in 49 games and had 55 points (24+31), but also 69 penalty minutes. He was the leading scorer on the team in the 2011 season. The previous season also with the Fighting Saints, he played in 51 games and had 49 points (21+28) and 46 penalty minutes, third on the team in scoring. Averaging over a point per game in his past two seasons, a center who scores is exactly what the Sabres need and Girgensons is just a stones throw away from a full-time roster spot, potentially within the next couple of years.