Flames 2012 First Round Targets: Zemgus Girgensons



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


The List


  • Franko J

    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.

  • Truculence

    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).

    • Arik

      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.

      • Truculence

        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!!!

  • Franko J

    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.

    • MC Hockey

      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.

  • everton fc

    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!!!

  • everton fc

    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.

  • MC Hockey

    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”

  • MC Hockey

    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.