Our annual Top 25 Under 25 series serves to find the best young players in the Buffalo Sabres organization, be it NHL, AHL, European or junior leagues. We voted on everyone from Asplund to Willman, and the best 25 players get profiled throughout the month of September. Today's subject: Zemgus Girgensons.
Zemgus Girgensons, C
Age: 22 Height: 6’1’’ Weight: 203 lb
Two years ago, Zemgus Girgensons was one of the most exciting young players on the Sabres roster. He had just finished a breakout year with 15 goals in 61 games, was voted into the All-Star game thanks to the entire country of Latvia sitting in front of the their computer screens for a month, and he even had a chart-topping rap song written about him.
Now, after a year in which Zemgus saw his ice time and production shrink considerably, there’s a question of whether he’ll even be on the team at the beginning of next season. He was give a one-year “Show me” contract this offseason, and will need to step his game up to convince GM Tim Murray that he’s worth a bigger investment.
Girgensons’ play style fits right in with the mentality of Buffalo - hard work, grit, and with just enough scoring touch to be useful in the top 9. Two years ago, we saw flashes of some pretty sick mitts on some of Girgensons’ breakaway goals, something we missed last season. I don’t know that he has enough offensive punch in his game to have a place in the top 6, but with his combination of skill and sandpaper, Girgensons seems like the perfect third line forward.
Of course, he needs to be given that opportunity this season and run with it, something that’s between him and Dan Bylsma. From Bylsma’s comments after last night’s preseason game, it looks like he might be given that chance.
“Zemgus is kind of a heart-and-soul, gutsy player. A player that's got to work hard in all areas of the rink and bring that to the offensive zone. That's what we've got to see from Zemgus and, again, he's going to get plenty of opportunity to do it here and he did tonight.”
If Girgensons can return to form, it’ll be one more young, talented piece of the Sabres Stanley Cup puzzle. If he can’t, the team may look at cutting bait after this season.