Prospect Preview: Zemgus Girgensons

Update: Girgensons was picked 14th overall by Buffalo.

Zemgus Girgensons
Position: Center
Height: 6′ 2
Weight: 198
Shoots: Left
Born: 01/05/94, Riga, Latvia Latvia
NHL Central Scouting Rank: #18 North American Skater
Player Pages:   NHLEPHFHf

Talent Analysis:
Girgensons is the guy who can do everything well, but isn’t the flashiest player.  He has good speed, good hands, good size, and good grit, good character, and good bloodlines.  If he has a comparable in the NHL, it is likely Brooks Laich.  Girgensons has proven he can score against players his own age, he can score in big games, and he can do whatever needs doing on the ice in all three zones.  He may not be the home-run hitter scouts look for in the first round, but he may just be the safest pick to make an NHL roster after the top 15 picks. 

Last Season:
In his second season with the USHL Dubuque Fighting Saints, Girgensons wore the “C” as team captain and led the team in scoring.  He improved on last season’s numbers, posting 24 goals and 55 points in 51 games a season after posting 21 goals and 49 points in 51 games.  With good +/- (+17) and penalty minute numbers (69 PIM), Girgensons does his talking on the ice; after suffering a broken jaw in the playoffs, he’ll have to.  After winning the Clark Cup as USHL champions in 2011 with 8 points in 11 playoff games, Girgensons put up 4 points in 2 games in the 2012 playoffs before his injury.  With the Latvian National Team, Girgensons wore the “A” at the World Juniors, putting up 2 goals in 6 games as Latvia avoided relegation. 

NHL Projection:
Girgensons will do no worse than 3rd line center in the NHL, but he certainly has the offensive upside to be a second-line center.  He is one of those character guys who will likely do all the dirty jobs, like killing penalties, taking lots of defensive zone faceoffs, and covering for his linemates’ offensive gambles.  In short, his all-around game, his developed frame, and his hard-nosed style make him an excellent candidate to make the NHL as a center in a few years, and he’s the kind of player who can play any position. 

Will the Capitals draft him?:
The Hockey News seems to think the Capitals will take him, as they have him listed as their 16th pick in the draft.  The Capitals could certainly use another Brooks Laich, as character is something the Caps can always use more of.  With his potential, it would be no surprise if McPhee took him, especially as he is planning to go to college, which gives McPhee four years to sign him to a contract.  On the surface, seeing as how McPhee has only drafted 1 other Latvian in his 126 picks, it wouldn’t seem likely McPhee would go that direction.  Then consider only 17 Latvians have been drafted since 1997 and the Caps’ hire of Arturs Irbe and McPhee looks much more Latvian-friendly.  Add in that Girgensons is already playing in North America and his father was a pro hockey player, it makes him a much more likely pick. 

Plans for next season:
If the Capitals draft Girgensons, he has committed to the University of Vermont.  He was also drafted by the WHL Kelowna Rockets, and McPhee may point Girgensons that direction, as the WHL is his favorite league.  Either way, Girgensons will spend at least one more season developing, as that is McPhee’s M.O.  As Girgensons is so mature physically and mentally, he will almost certainly sign a pro contract and play in the AHL after one season.  He is AHL eligible before age 20 since he came up through the USHL.  It would not be surprising if Girgensons played in the NHL by the end of the 2013-14 season.