2012 NHL Draft Prospect Profile #22: Zemgus Girgensons

Zemgus Girgensons

Position: Center
Team: Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
Age: 18
Date of Birth: January 5th, 1994
Place of Birth: Riga, Latvia
Ht: 6'2" Wt: 198lbs
Shoots: Left

2011-2012 Regular Season Stats:

49 24 31
55 +17 69

2011-2012 USHL Playoff Stats:

2 2 4 +2

Remember in 2005, when there was a young player from one of hockey's not-so-hotbeds ranked in the first round of the entry draft? I'm talking about Anze Kopitar of Slovenia, of course. Kopitar has gone on to be a very productive forward for the Los Angeles Kings, leading them to the brink of the Cup finals this season. In his draft year, Kopitar had question marks due to his birthplace, and this season Zemgus Girgensons is facing some of the same questions.

I'm not saying that Girgensons will go on to put up Kopitar-like numbers, but Girgensons is looking to become the first Latvian-born first round NHL draft pick. The main difference between Kopitar and Girgensons is each player's development path- Kopitar played in Sweden, where Girgensons has been developing in the United States, playing a year of Junior "A", followed by two years in the USHL.

This past season, Girgensons was the captain of the Dubuque Fighting Saints, and also contributed to Latvia returning to the main pool at the World Junior championship. He's a power forward, who'll crash the net and make his own space on the ice. He's not the most physical forward, but doesn't shy away from contact. He's got a serious love for the game, which translates to a strong work ethic on and off the ice. His season was cut short early in the playoffs when he suffered a fractured jaw, one of the many high-end prospects who's season was shortened this season due to injury.

He's committed to the University of Vermont this fall, giving the team that drafts him a four year, rather than two year window of development. His rights are owned by the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL however, and the NHL team that drafts him may try to convince him to go the major junior route.

Scouting Report:Latvian native Zemgus Girgensons continues to take the path less travelled in regards to his hockey development. Girgensons came over to the US in 2008 rather than staying to play for Latvia’s U20 development team (SK Riga), a team stationed in his hometown. After playing one season in the EJHL, the six foot center made the jump to the USHL last season and had a huge year with 21 goals and 28 assists in 51 games for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. With many new faces upfront for Dubuque this season, Girgensons will have to take it upon himself to create scoring opportunities. Girgensons will likely be up to the challenge as he displays great offensive awareness. Despite not being an extremely physical player, Girgensons works hard his team’s own end and all-in-all has a very complete game. Even though Girgensons was selected by the Kelowna Rockets in the 2011 CHL Import Draft, Girgensons remains committed to the Fighting Saints and will start his collegiate career next fall with the University of Vermont.
- The Scouting Report
Why he'd be a good fit in Columbus:

We're starting to get into the range of players that will almost assuredly be drafted in the latter half of the first round. If the Jackets elect to take the Kings' first rounder this year, Girgensons may be available. Any team in the league would benefit from adding him to the roster, he's a big-bodied point producer with passion to burn. He compares himself to Ryan Kesler, and the Jackets would be in good shape up the middle with the likes of Girgensons, Brassard and Johansen.

Girgensons in Action:

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