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2012 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Zemgus Girgensons

Zemgus Girgensons, C

Birthplace: Riga, Latvia, 1/5/94
Bio: 6’1, 195 lbs., L
Dubuque Fighting Saints, USHL
Rankings: ISS – 24; CSS – 18 (NA)

The Skinny: Zemgus Girgensons has the grit, two-way game and work ethic to be a top-six power-forward in the NHL … but does his offensive upside warrant top-ten consideration?

As the undisputed best Latvian and best player from the United States Hockey League (USHL) available in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Zemgus Girgensons has received some significant attention. Zemgus is the captain of the Dubuque Fighting Saints and also wore a letter for his nation at the 2012 World Junior Championships. Coaches continue to laude his commitment to improving himself and overall effort.

He’s noticeably strong, with big powerful strides which allows him to effectively fight through checks. Girgensons is a potentially dominant player on the cycle/forecheck because of his tenacity, balance and physical presence. He protects the puck efficiently and won’t turn it over without a fight. The Latvian’s skating is solid, with good speed – though he doesn’t have ideal acceleration.

Girgensons can finish with the best of ‘em, possessing a pro-caliber release and a heavy shot. Because of his willingness to fight through opponents and get to the dirty areas of the ice, he has some significant goal-scoring upside. Rarely does the University of Vermont commit give up on the play.

His defensive game shows a lot of polish for an eighteen year-old. He has good on-ice awareness, managing gaps and filling lanes with willingness and skill. Girgensons blocks shots, wins faceoffs, throws checks and plays on the PK. Failing all else, he should have a place in the NHL as a solid two-way grinder.

Scouts worry about his offensive upside – spending a mid-first-round pick or higher on a guy with only third-line potential would be a major issue. He doesn’t possess world-class puck skills (though he has some decent power moves). Without plus-playmaking capabilities, his stock has a hard ceiling. Of course, there are those who see his offensive potential closer to first-line levels – it’s just not the majority opinion.

Additionally, there were some who voiced dissatisfaction with the performance he had in the 2012 World Junior Championships – suggesting he lacked the consistency and effort commensurate with a prospect of his status.

Girgensons is a first-rounder without question – but because of varying estimations of his offensive skillset, his placement within the first round is all over the map. In the end, unless the consensus shifts on his potential as a scorer (or some GM falls in love with his combo of size, grit and intangibles), Girgensons probably have to be content as a mid-round pick.


Ideal Fits: Teams looking for a can’t-miss forward with size and intangibles in the middle of the first-round: Dallas, Calgary, Washington, Ottawa, Buffalo

Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because they think he’s got top-six offensive upside; because his combination of size, skill and intangibles is available once in a blue moon.

Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because they think he’s got third-line or grinder written on his career path.

Strengths: Strength, Balance, Skating, Finish, Defensive Acumen, Work Ethic, Intangibles, Possession-Game

Weaknesses/Concerns: Creativity, Playmaking, Explosiveness, Consistency

Projection: Physical Second-Line, Two-Way Center (30g, 55p potential)

Predicted 2012 NHL Draft Range: First Round (11-18)

Overall Rank: 14

N.A. Rank: 12


Forward Rank: 7

Latvian National Rank: 1

Bob is the Boston Bruins correspondent for The Hockey Writers and a credentialed member of the Providence Bruins' Media.

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