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Girgensons takes shot at pros: First-round pick decides against a college career, signs contract with Sabres
14 июля 2013 года. Harrington, Mike. Buffalo News

Zemgus Girgensons said Friday he's going to stay in Buffalo to work on the whole bigger-stronger-faster theory of getting ready for pro hockey.

The Sabres were certainly happy to hear that. Especially now that they've officially added the talented young center to their growing cadre of elite prospects. And this one has the kind of jam and feistiness their roster has often lacked.

"He does have that. There's bite to his game," General Manager Darcy Regier said in First Niagara Center after announcing Girgensons had signed a three-year entry-level contract. "He's direct between points A and B and he does it forcefully and I think that's an important ingredient to have in the organization and an important addition for us."

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Girgensons was the second of Buffalo's two first-round picks at the NHL Draft last month in Pittsburgh. He was taken 14th overall after a draft-night trade with Calgary, becoming the highest-drafted Latvian in NHL history. His deal will pay $925,000 per season.

But Girgensons said shortly after donning his new Sabres sweater that night that he was still leaning heavily to honoring his commitment to the University of Vermont. But four solid days at the Sabres' development camp in First Niagara Center piqued the club's interest and got Girgensons to go pro instead.

"It gave us additional insight to his game and what type of game he's going to bring," Regier said. "We had a good idea of what his game is going to be but I think you get a different sense of the level [by watching him live] and we're confident he'll do well at the pro level."

"It was a pretty hard decision just because I was really close to University of Vermont coach [Kevin] Sneddon. It was the toughest decision I've made in my life," said Girgensons, who was a captain and United States Hockey League all-star last year for Dubuque. "It was laying on my mind heavy because I was close to Vermont and it was a really tough decision for a kid to make. No one was pushing me anywhere. I was the only one who made this decision."

The Sabres had seven first- or second-round picks on the ice at development camp this week (counting former Vancouver No. 1 Cody Hodgson), and eight third-rounders. Regier said talks are progressing with No. 12 overall choice Mikhail Grigorenko and that he was "hopeful it will be in the short term" that the former Quebec junior will also be signed.

"We've got maybe as heavy a lot of talent as we've had," coach Lindy Ruff said after Thursday night's camp scrimmage. "Some good skill, some good size. We've got some good skill in the back end and up front we saw that talent in the scrimmage."

"You need some guys that have that skill and have that size and with Mikhail and Zemgus they pretty much bring it," added winger Marcus Foligno. "So it's really exciting to see for the future."

Ruff added that he felt Girgensons had a "man-body" and that he felt the 18-year-old looked ready for at least the AHL. Girgensons said he always has high expectations but that he was encouraged enough by his showing here this week to take the pro plunge.

"I was really committed to Vermont and I think that Coach Sneddon's staff is one of the best NCAA staffs," he said. "But after this camp I did pretty good, gave my best effort and I understood I might have my shot turning pro right away and I'll try to accomplish that."

Girgensons is likely ticketed to start the season in Rochester, where the Amerks can use the help up front. But it's not absurd to think he'll get a strong look from the Sabres at training camp in September. What's the chance of quickly seeing him in the NHL on a team desperate for help down the middle?

"It probably just depends on me," he said. "On how good I develop in the next two months, how much weight I put on, how much mentally stronger I get."

"We're delighted to have him here, delighted he joined us to play pro," Regier said. "We think that he's a prototype NHL player ? and will be able to make that transition from the USHL to professional hockey."

Страничка Земгуса Гиргенсонса на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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