(Note: This article is part of a top-ten countdown of the Buffalo Sabres' top prospects. In order to be considered a prospect, the player has to be eligible for the Calder Trophy this season, which means they cannot have played more than 25 games in the NHL in any season prior. This removes Corey Tropp, Luke Adam, Jhonas Enroth and Cody Hodgson from contention.)
When the Buffalo Sabres entered the 2012 NHL Draft with the 12th and 21st picks, many believed they would trade one or both of them to either move up in the draft or to secure their long coveted No. 1 center.
Instead, the Sabres ended up with two of the top centers in the draft, including Zemgus Girgensons, after trading with the Calgary Flames to move up to No. 14.
Girgensons is a beast on the ice, there's really no other way of putting it. He doesn't want to go around you, he wants to go through you. In other words, he's the type of center the Sabres have needed for a long time. He may not be the skill player Mikhail Grigorenko is, but he certainly projects as a second line center at the least.
Playing for Latvia in the World Junior Championships this December and January, Girgensons showed why he was one of the best forwards in this year's draft. Playing on a woefully outmatched team, Girgensons showcased his own talent and drive, opening the eyes of many scouts.
Girgensons is an excellent skater and does possess some crafty hands, and has the potential to score 20 goals a year. He led the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL in both scoring, with 55 points last season, and as their captain.
The Sabres signed Girgensons to an entry-level deal after their prospect camp in July. While the lockout continues, Girgensons is able to play in the AHL with Rochester because he has never played in the CHL. It is a sure thing Girgensons will start the season in Rochester, likely as the second line center behind Cody Hodgson.
If the NHL season begins sooner rather than later, look for Girgensons to get a look up with the big club at some point.
Prediction: Plays the year in the AHL, scoring 20-plus goals and showcasing his gritty style of play.