Friday July 13, 2012
Zemgus Girgensons spent the past two seasons in the USHL with the Dubuque Fighting Saints before the Buffalo Sabres selected in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft. (photo by Jim Naprstek)
Dubuque Fighting Saints captain inks three-year deal
The Buffalo Sabres have signed forward Zemgus Girgensons to a three-year NHL entry-level contract less than a month after they selected him in the first round (14th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.
Girgensons spent the last two seasons in the USHL playing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. He led the team in scoring in 2011-12 with 55 points (24g, 31a) despite only playing in 49 of the team’s 60 regular season games. His point total tied for 13th overall in the USHL. He scored eight goals over his final seven games of the regular season, including his first USHL career hat trick on March 24th in the 4-1 win over Tri-City.
Dubuque posted a 34-9-3 record this season, but were just 2-11-1 without him in the lineup for the full 60 minutes. He led the Saints with 24 goals and a plus-17 rating and his six game-winning goals tied for fourth most in the USHL
Prior to the season, Girgensons was named captain of the Saints. The Riga, Latvia native also took time away from the USHL this season to compete for his country in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship. He was named to the All-USHL First Team following the 2011-12 season and a few weeks later, the Sabres selected him in the 2012 NHL Draft, one of six USHL players to be selected in the first round. Girgensons also became the first Latvian native to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft.
During his rookie USHL season, the forward helped the Dubuque Fighting Saints capture the Clark Cup championship. He collected 104 points (45g, 59a) in 100 regular season games over his two-year USHL career. Girgensons also added 12 points (5g, 7a) in 13 playoff games for Dubuque.
“I am really happy for Zemgus,” said Dubuque Fighting Saints Head Coach and General Manager Jim Montgomery. “This is a challenge he’s wanted. This has been his dream probably since he was 12 years old. He deserves and earned this, and I think he will be extremely successful. His skill and will have been elite since day one. That’s why he was an NHL first round pick and that’s why he is signing an NHL contract today.”
Girgensons was set to begin his collegiate career at the University of Vermont this fall, but earned the opportunity to take the next step and sign a NHL contract with the Buffalo Sabres. He has further impressed the Sabres this week while participating in the team’s development camp.
“I think he’s ready for this. I think Zemgus is going to have tremendous success,” Montgomery said. “Whatever situation he is put in the coach is going to love him and his teammates are going to love him. He is the ultimate team player that helps you win every night.”
Girgensons joins several other players who have signed NHL contracts shortly after their USHL careers, including Ruslan Fedotenko (Sioux City Musketeers, 1998-99), Trevor Lewis (Des Moines Buccaneers, 2004-06), John Moore (Chicago Steel, 2007-09), and J.T. Miller (Team USA, 2009-11). Indiana Ice forward Daniil Tarasov signed an AHL contract after completing his USHL career this spring.