Flames 2012 First Round Targets: Zemgus Girgensons

Arik
June 08 2012 09:02AM

 

 

Zemgus Girgensons. The very name brings to mind Superman villains and 1940's Red Scare films. But does the player match the name?

Simply put, yes (except the evil part): Girgensons is aggressive, hard working, and skilled enough that his upside is top six, instead of "energy forward".

A Latvian born player who's spent the past few years in the USHL, Girgensons has made a name for himself with his all-around capabilities. He can hit, he can skate fairly well, he has some snazzy puck skills, and he's defensively responsible. This sort of handyman player could be exceptionally useful, especially given his position as center, but likely flexibility to wing.

There are few enough players, not to mention prospects, in the Flames organization that can claim a combination of both aggresiveness and pure puck skill. Given his size and scoring totals in the OHL, it's likely the Flames had hoped for that from Nemisz, but that's failed to materialize. Given Michael Ferland's noted size and aggressiveness, one would assume he has that combination, but he trends towards more of a pure power forward, rather than the hybrid player that Girgensons appears to be.

It's hard not to dream of Girgensons and Baertschi lining up together, and the mean center making space for the slick winger, but it's important to keep in mind that Girgensons has commited to the University of Vermont in the fall, which could put the expected arrival date a bit later than normal. That's not always a terrible thing:  it'd mean Girgensons would probably not be rushed ahead of schedule in development and the Flames would retain his rights for four years.

Scouting Report

According to Jacket's Cannon, there's also the possibility the team that drafts him (especially if it's a Canadian team) could push him to play for the Kelowna Rockets, who own his CHL rights.

Still, Girgensons is a player with plusses and minues. Here are a few key quotes on him from Cory Pronman: 

Girgensons is a great do-it-all player who can create offense from his natural skill and still be a fan favorite because of his intangibles...he also shows a diligent work ethic at both ends, and is very responsible and smart defensively for his age...

Here's the downside though:

He shows great puck skills, has good hockey sense, skates well, and has a good physical game. My issue is the instances where he doesn't show those skills. I'm not talking about taking games off - there will be games where he's going at 100% and he doesn't show great offensive skill.

That could very easily (and very scarily, for a top 15 pick) translate into David Moss-ism. A hardworking physical player, but one who for no reason will switch between high end as The Moss(n)ster and 3rd/4th liner as just plain old David Moss. It could just be that he has a few kinks to work out and once those are out of the way, he'll be a great all around player, but at this point, it's something of a mystery. It's worth noting that Pronman has Girgensons ranked as the 14th best prospect.

The Numbers

Much like Kent was able to do with Faksa as an OHL player, I was able to get a good look at how Girgensons scoring breaks down situationally:

  • Total Points: 55
  • PPG: 1.12
  • ES%: 70.9%
  • PP%: 25.5%
  • Team%: 29.1%

Just like Faksa, most of his damage was done at EV, and 70% is a pretty good chunk at that. He contributed to nearly 30% of total team goals, and when you consider he missed eleven games, that number is definitely over 30% for team scoring percentage while he's in the lineup. That's a pretty key player, but not necessarily a star player at this point.

Girgensons also led his team in shots taken, with 166 in 49 games (3.4/game).

Probable Target?

Feaster hasn't shown any reluctance in taking players from the NCAA, USHL, or even overseas (all of which are categories that Girgensons fits in to an extent). John Gaudreau came from the same team (Dubuque Fighting Saints), for example. Girgensons mix of overall ability and size down the middle speaks to a few needs in Calgary's system as well.

Possibility he will be available at 14: Very High

Possibility Flames will pick him: High, barring a player slipping in the draft

KNEEL BEFORE ZEMGUS GIRGENSONS

The List

 

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Arik works in Search and Rescue in the United States Coast Guard and is a former managing editor of the SBN Flames blog, Matchsticks and Gasoline.
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#1 Clay
June 08 2012, 09:16AM
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Ive been pretty clear that unless Faksa falls to 14 the Flames have to take Girgensons. I could see him heading to the CHL, but college is tougher competition. A year or two in college could mean we see him turning pro before his sophmore or junior season anyway.

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#2 Kent Wilson
June 08 2012, 09:19AM
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"Kneel before Zemgus!"

Okay, so who added the photoshop?

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#5 Kent Wilson
June 08 2012, 09:37AM
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@Arik

haha, ahh. Well done then.

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#6 Clay
June 08 2012, 09:46AM
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@Arik

I'm not against having a prospect in college for 4 years either. Look at the fruit NY is bearing with Kreider.

It would not be bad to see if we can have one drafted NCAA player turn pro each year, all physically ready to contribute in pro.

2013-14 John Ramage (jury out)

2014-15 Bill Arnold (could be an excellent role player)

2015-16 Johnny Gaudreau (pretty much the equivalent of a love child between Jesus and Oprah)

2016-17 Zemgus Girgensons (The Latvian Lion, or Notus Raitus)

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#7 the-wolf
June 08 2012, 09:54AM
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@clay - I agree: Faksa and then either Girgensons or Collberg. The last 2 are both highly skilled, but I think both will take a good amount of time before making the NHL. Girgensons to figure out exactly what his game is and how good he can be with his great physical tools (I hear his off-ice work ethic is also extremely high - something that played a factor in the Flames drafting Baertschi) and Collberg to mature physically and add a lot of strength. I'd say both of them are at least 2-3 years of development time away from making the NHL.

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#8 Luc
June 08 2012, 10:02AM
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So what are we looking at for a ceiling? Middling / good 2nd liner? Very talented third?? If so, then I'll take a pass. I know that picking 14th means your basically having to pick BPA and pray it works but if I am looking at this org, I want a potential first liner. Whatever that looks like whether center or winger big or small. First round should be going after the guys who can make an impact. Although I do feel a solid two way game is extremely important as well

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#9 the-wolf
June 08 2012, 10:08AM
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@Luc - he's a guy with all the tools to be a 1st liner IMO, but still needs the proverbial toolbox. That said, his character and work ethic are supposed to be second to none.

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#10 Kent Wilson
June 08 2012, 10:17AM
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@Luc

Outside of maybe the top 3 guys in this draft, the rest of them are a crap shoot. At 14, no one is a for sure first liner vs any one else.

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#11 SmellOfVictory
June 08 2012, 10:38AM
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My impression, though, is that the D is a lot stronger than the F crop, which means that by the middle of the second round it's probably in the team's best interests to take a defender (even though it breaks the cardinal rule of only drafting forwards with first round picks).

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#12 Bikeit
June 08 2012, 10:41AM
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Sounds good to me. Looks like a guy that could give some young oilers a few nightmares in years to come. Flames better start building a team that can counter high terror skill that the oilers are going to bring. Otherwise they will not be division champs for years.

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#14 Baalzamon
June 08 2012, 11:11AM
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Girgensons has a lot of tools I like. He'd be a good pick, and he's actually the one who leaps to mind for me when I'm thinking about the Flames in the first round.

if the Flames draft him, we have to call him "Ziggy" for all eternity.

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#15 shutout
June 08 2012, 11:22AM
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I have to admit I am nationality/regionally biased against picking him. There have been far too many problems with Russian players (Latvia might as well be part of Russia) that I just dont think it is worth the gamble to take a player like this when his upside is a second line center. The chances that he finishes school and decides not to sign and become a free agent or bolt to the KHL are fairly high in my opinion. Regardless of what is said by the player, the agent, the public relations firm trying to sell him the fact remains that for many of the kids in that region their grandparents and parents grew up in the soviet communist era and are now having to live with KGB organized crime while the Euro goes in the tank. The opportunity to make huge money, tax free, has to be an incredible drawing card compared to playing at an entry level salary in the NHL or doing time in the AHL.

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#16 T&A4Flames
June 08 2012, 11:35AM
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@ shutout

I don't get that from him at all. I to have the fear of Russian players being easily drawn back to play in their home country, but I don't think ZG has that same mentality. Also, he wants an education. So, when he's doen school, assuming he stays for 3 or 4 years, he could and should be ready to jump right in to the NHL; no AHL salary to worry about. As far as FWD's go, I am interested in him as I think he could compliment Sven quite well with his size and skill.

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#17 BACKBURNER
June 08 2012, 12:01PM
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I've narrowed it down to.. Faksa Girgensons Pouliot Collberg... (long shot)

any chance Vasilevski will be around at 14??

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#18 Bean-counting cowboy
June 08 2012, 12:08PM
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@ Backburner

Geez I hope we don't take a goaltender in the 1st round - that would be the last position the Flames should draft in the 1st round.

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#19 Bob Cob
June 08 2012, 12:13PM
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You can take a defenceman in the first round you just don't take him in the #1 spot, you take BPA with that pick. D-men take longer to develop, by the time it gets to 14 where the Flames are drafting its a crapshoot between who will develop faster a forward or defenceman. That's why the Oilers will keep the pick and take Yakupov.

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#21 Colin
June 08 2012, 01:04PM
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@Arik, NOT defending Shutout at all, but I don't think you can call that racist, Xenophobic is probably a much better term, but probably not racist. More just an issue of semantics, however, still an INCREDIBLY stupid thing to say, nevermind think. Doesn't matter where a kid is from, if you give him good reason to stick with your organization he's going to stay in your org, he's not going to spend 4 years in school or whatever and just **** off after that.

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#22 the-wolf
June 08 2012, 01:11PM
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@Arik - I think accusing Shutout of being a racist is a little over-the- top, to say the least.

You can disagree about Latvia vs Russia and that's fine, but a lot of scouts have expressed concerns over the years about Russians, Swiss, Czechs, etc. Where does Grigorenko get selected this year? Even Galchenyuk, an American, had to face those questions. Are those scouts racist?

As well, players from various different leagues over the years, like U.S. high school hockey, for example, have been scrutinized similarly. That doesn't make those scouts racist against Americans.

There are example of other Eastern Europeans going the KHL route. If Girgensons did go that way, would Shutout still be racist?

Seems to me his opinion (right or wrong) is based on geographical/historical trends. That's a long ways from condemning an entire race as inferior.

Seriously dude, turn down the PC meter a few notches. That was uncalled for.

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#23 shutout
June 08 2012, 01:22PM
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@ Arik

Racist.

Wow, you are such an idiot.

My comment was that two countries, Latvia and Russia spent 40 some years under soviet communism and that growing up and living in those hardships is going to impact how people are raised and how they view things. The fact that economic times are still very troubled in Europe puts even more emphasis on somebody to potentially want to make as much money as possible to help ensure that their family is able to enjoy a better life.

But I realize that from your close minded idiocy that you are unable to grasp the difference between two countries being beside each other, and two countries that were linked to each other like states. Perhaps next time I will type in smaller or more simple words so that you will be able to understand them.

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#24 Bean-counting cowboy
June 08 2012, 01:35PM
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Gotta agree with Wolf & Colin on this one. It has to do with biases and trends. Some scouts/GM's prefer CHL vs. College players or visa versa for various reasons. It's looking out for the best interests of the Org.

Now if he had said something like "all russian players are lazy, take shifts off & don't care about the playoffs" *cough* Don Cherry *cough*, then we could maybe call him out on racism.

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#25 Justin Azevedo
June 08 2012, 02:20PM
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we've found a new nickname for johnny g.

jesus oprah.

oh, and everyone calm down plz.

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#26 RexLibris
June 08 2012, 03:24PM
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Latvia is one crazy hockey country, and Girgensons could be the most talented skater they have ever produced, barring Kristians Pelss' development, of course;-)

There are strong cultural and political influences there from Russia, just as there are in Canada from the U.S. They live next to a regional juggernaut, it is sort of inevitable.

That being said, the fear of drafting Eastern European players based on the concern that they will return to the KHL is becoming tiresome at best, and outright ignorant at it's worst.

The examples that people rely upon to prove that "Russian" players aren't committed to staying in North America is often a case of confirmation bias where one finds an example to confirm a prejudice.

This argument doesn't get used when drafting Swedish players, and yet they have a healthy, popular professional league of their own.

Is it any more of a risk that a draft pick could decide to play overseas in the KHL than that that same draft pick might not pan out at all?

Historically, teams that have shied away from drafting overseas talent because of what in the end is nothing more than xenophobia have regretted those decisions with few examples.

If the player is strong enough as a prospect to be listed in the top 90 available in his draft year, he probably has worked hard enough that the North American market is his goal.

I'm not directing any of this specifically at a commenter here. Rather I felt that, given the popularity of this topic in this year's draft, it needed to be said.

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#27 the-wolf
June 08 2012, 03:42PM
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@ Rex- "Is it any more of a risk that a draft pick could decide to play overseas in the KHL than that that same draft pick might not pan out at all?"

Yes. It ups the risk. Adds to it. Now you have 2 things to worry about. Good enough to make it, but doesn't want to.

The fear is real, if not overly legit. It exists because there are examples. A team would be foolish not to examine the possibility.

That said, I think it's hard to prevent. Tim Erixon gave no indication he only wanted to play for the NYR, for example. Lots of Swiss players have chosen the comforts of home. But does that mean you don't draft Baertschi?

However, I look at it as no different than a player being too lazy to make it. It's a character issue.

Risk vs reward, each case has to be examined individually, but you do have to examine it.

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#28 Derzie
June 08 2012, 03:56PM
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If someone uses nationality, history, statistical observations in a sentence, this is not racist. It is the PC crap that lumps intelligent discussion with the actual racists. "Canadians tend to like hockey". "US and Canada are similar". I'm shaking the tree with those statements. C'mon.

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#29 Colin
June 08 2012, 05:54PM
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"That being said, the fear of drafting Eastern European players based on the concern that they will return to the KHL is becoming tiresome at best, and outright ignorant at it's worst."

Couldn't agree more on this, if you are a decent organization that works well with its younger players this shouldn't be a prevalent fear. Whatever the deal with Radulov was, Nashville probably had an idea that was going down, however it was up to Nashville to tell it's player that he would be getting a pay day after his contract was up, even sign him as soon as is possible and give him that extension, take the risk.

Just like if the Flames take a guy that is orignaly from Europe, you have to work with him, convince him to come to the NHL rather than play in Europe when he is ready to come over. And the risk is a lot less when they have already made the jump from Overseas to play in the CHL/USHL/College hockey, if they've already made that jump the biggest thing from darfting the kid shouldn't be his heritage, it should be his skill/compete level.

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#30 the-wolf
June 08 2012, 06:35PM
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@ Colin - I agree that there are definite indicators on players less likely to bolt, the longer a player is in NA the less likely he is to leave being one of them.

That said, I can't agree with your assertion (correct me if I'm wrong) that it's always the team's fault. Radulov, to use your example, surely knew there was money coming.

I think cultural factors come into play as far as comfort levels. You go where you feel at home, which is why some NA players left Europe during the lockout to come back to NA. No different.

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#31 Colin
June 08 2012, 08:56PM
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No it's not all the teams fault(Not 100% anyways). But to say it's 100% the players fault and they are chasing the money is not accurate either. You have to always be doing your homework about your players and especially ones that have more options. Nashville was probably a little blind-sided but they must have know something was up, you don't do exit interviews and regular interviews with your players for no reason. And if a players true desire is for more money you have to tell him what he is going to get in the future and work out a contract, I know Nashville is in a bit of a pickle because of the teams budget so they probably didn't want to enter into negotiations that early, but they have to make some concerned efforts to show their foreign players that there is incentive to stay in NA. It's not like the NFL were you can re-structure contracts, but you keep those players in the loop and tell them what their roles are and start contract negotiations and tell them they will get rewarded when the team can.

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#32 RexLibris
June 08 2012, 09:06PM
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@the-wolf

So here is the $64,000 question (not adjusted for inflation, Nations has a tight budget): if the Flames had Grigorenko, a Russian national, fall to 14th overall, would you select him or a North American with perhaps 70% of his skill level?

This is why I said in another thread that simply saying that a team needs to select BPA is an oversimplification. It needs qualification.

Radulov was a gamble, but one could argue that Doug MacLean made a gamble in selecting a Canadian center over a European one back in 2005.

Retrospect says that MacLean ought to have taken the more talented, and larger, Kopitar. At the time there were many voices that cheered MacLean's selection saying that Brule was a smaller body but a lot of player. Comparisons of Theoren Fleury were being waived about.

That is only one example, much like Radulov. I think a good GM needs to look at each player and their surrounding circumstance, including place of birth or nationality, individually. Not as it pertains to some antiquated notion of national character, but in terms of it's part in shaping the individual.

Galchenyuk is touted as a safer pick than Grigorenko because he was raised in the U.S. However, his family moved around quite a bit, so might one not then argue that he has even less of a sense of home and connection to any particular place? It's impossible to know.

I agree with you in that it is, in part, an issue of character. But that opens up an entirely seperate can of worms on a scouting staff and management staff's ability to properly discern character from face to face meetings. Kent's article on that premise raised plenty of doubts about that process.

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#33 Baalzamon
June 08 2012, 09:16PM
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@RexLibris

70% of Grigorenko's skill level is just a tad optimistic for 14th overall. I think, if Feaster and company like what they hear from him in interviews etc., that they take him in that highly unlikely scenario. The Flames can't afford to not take risks.

Of course, the possibility of Grigorenko going to the KHL is very real, and every team needs to realize that and account for it. He is under a lot of pressure to play at home, and I imagine any number of KHL teams are going to go after him. hard. And, if I remember correctly, there is no limit on rookie contracts in the KHL. Time to toss the dice.

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#34 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
June 08 2012, 09:32PM
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Leaving the aforementioned aspects of his identity aside, I have some real doubts about how his game will translate into the NHL. He doesn`t seem to have the consistency to be a top-six forward, but, in his defense, played on a Saints team that had a pretty shallow forward ranks. Secondly, many have described him as physical and `mean` but what the hell is the standard in this regard considering he his playing in the USHL? Is this league as tough as the WHL in terms of scrapping, hitting, etc. when it comes to teenagers? We all know what happens when you try to play a mean, physical game in the NHL: other mean, physical players come looking for you. Ferland, for instance, is a kid who I consider to be a mean, physical power forward for a teenager, as he not only hits and goes to the tough areas, but will scrap anybody anywhere. Whether he has the skill-set to do this as a top-six forward is a question that will be answered in the next couple of years.

In sum, does Girgensons have the character and ability to play his physical brand of hockey at the NHL level? If Flames scouts believe he does, then I am all in as his two-way game and offensive upside are reasonably strong. If not, I`ll pass, as his other skills are simply not good enough to elevate him into a top-two center if he is not willing to sacrifice his body, muck it up in the corners and tough areas, and deliver and take the big hits despite the consequences (ie. take the gloves off when needed).

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#39 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
June 08 2012, 10:21PM
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Arik wrote:

This is actual discussion about his abilities as a player. Thank you.

Anyways, character/drive aren't really of question with him. There have been nothing but good reports about those. The questions are "Can he sustain top level ability?" If the answer was absolutely yes, he'd be a top ten pick. As it stands, there's a bit of uncertainty which leaves him as a middle first rounder.

I hope I`m not doing a Darryl Sutter impression when I say that if he is a heart and soul player that is more than willing to help his team grind out a victory with a great two-way game, then he`s got my vote as scouts have said he has above-average hands and finishing ability anyways. Some of his moves as displayed on youtube are pretty dandy. His physical style and drive would make a great complement to more speedy and flashy wingers like Baertchi down the road.

The `Latvian`factor ;) is not an issue for me at all given his interviews; his intention to get an education, on the other hand, maybe. Everyone should aspire to a higher education as a matter of principle, but if this kid seriously wants to spend 4 years in college, he will not ideally be an impact player in the NHL for more than 6-7 years from now, as it will take him a couple seasons to acclimatize to the NHL anyways.

My preference is to take Faska or Taravarain (or whatever the hell his name is) if they are availabe. If not, roll the dice with Zemo!!!

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#40 Baalzamon
June 08 2012, 11:44PM
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@If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin

this mean enough for you? ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hV-tESjJGFE

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#41 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
June 08 2012, 11:57PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

this mean enough for you? ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hV-tESjJGFE

hahaha

p.s. yes- yes, it is.

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#42 Franko J
June 09 2012, 12:07AM
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Zemgus Girgensons can play on the Flames any day of the week. Great attitude, work ethityc,I and personality. Unfortunately I'm afraid like Faska he might get snapped up ubefore Calgary's selection at 14th. If he is available take him. He would be the dark horse pick of this draft.

I like the fact that he is going school to obtain a degree. It proves to me that he does have a great deal of character and integry.

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#43 loudogYYC
June 09 2012, 02:14AM
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Arik wrote:

Well hey, at least you're honest about your racism.

Seriously, saying "Latvia might as well be part of Russia" is like saying "Mexico might as well be a part of the USA". Different languages, different cultures, different histories, geographically close.

Furthermore, I highly recommend reading this link. It talks about his driving forces and how his goal is to be an NHL player and have a quality education above all else.

Ugh. Racist.

Unless you're someone that takes everything seriously, I found this comment funny.

Anyway, most scouts know NA players best so it's natural to be skeptical about foreigners. I think outside of Girgensons natural athletic ability, his best attribute is the desire to improve. Same as Svenny, tons of skills paired with a crazy desire to be better. Basically the opposite of Bourque. Remember that guy?

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#44 RexLibris
June 09 2012, 07:49AM
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Arik wrote:

You might be a dirty Oil fan, but I love you Rex.

Me? Nope, I'm one of the clean Oiler fans.

You're probably thinking of the unwashed masses who cheer for Vancouver.

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#45 everton fc
June 09 2012, 08:13AM
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He's listed at 6'2', 198 lbs. As a teenager.

We are a smallish team. We need to get big. Plan to get big. Big and skilled.

So we have Ferland. Arnold's not tall, but solid.

Girgensons is big. Has skill. Can skate. And can play "mean".

Of course you take him at #14 if he's available.

My two cents.

Latvia is culturally different from Russia, by the way. More like Lithuanians, though mostly Protestant, vs. Catholic Lithuania. That said, a quarter of the population are ethnic Russians. There's tensions there, but not to the extent you see with, say, East vs. West Ukraine.

Still, smaller nation, seperate cultural identity. Decent bobsleigh team! See Arturs Irbe for a true example of a responsible, successful Latvian NHLer....

Social anthropology rant now over!! GO FLAMES!!! DRAFT THIS KID!!!

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#46 Austin
June 09 2012, 10:58AM
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The fact that Girgensons is from Latvia doesn't mean anything. The fact that he has already made the trip over means he is probably more comfortable here. The only reason I see not to draft him is his comparisons to only a top 9 forward such as David Moss. But he also has advantages as better defensively than for example Collberg. Obviously I'd rather see us take Dumba, Reinhart, Faksa, Maata but if those guys aren't there, then I wouldn't really mind much who we took out of Collberg or Girgensons.

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#47 MC Hockey
June 09 2012, 02:03PM
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Franko J wrote:

Zemgus Girgensons can play on the Flames any day of the week. Great attitude, work ethityc,I and personality. Unfortunately I'm afraid like Faska he might get snapped up ubefore Calgary's selection at 14th. If he is available take him. He would be the dark horse pick of this draft.

I like the fact that he is going school to obtain a degree. It proves to me that he does have a great deal of character and integry.

Agree with Franko and in reading Arik's lengthy recommended article on him, I am all in favor go Girgenson due to work ethic and personality issues BUT also because skill, size, fitness, and aggressiveness are on his side..sounds a bit like Ovechkin of old minus the superb sniperstic talent (rare to snipe lie Ovie). As for a nickname I hate the unoriginal Ziggy and hope Zemgy or Girgles (pronounced like gurgles) make it to mainstream.

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#48 MC Hockey
June 09 2012, 02:07PM
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Oh and Arik's recommended article had this gem near the bottom:

"In Latvia, Zemgus is a star. Big star," Freibergs said. "Everyone there knows he's going to be the first player drafted in Round 1, so he's a big deal there, especially in hockey. A lot of people say he could go play in the (Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League) right now, but I know he wants to play in the NHL"

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#49 Austin
June 09 2012, 03:22PM
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Girgensons will easily be available at 14. That's why I think the Flames should look at other options than him first. I like Pontus Aberg too though, so I'm not sure who I'd pick between the two if Collberg/Faksa are already gone. I've seen some where Pontus Aberg is ranked all the way up to 10th.

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