Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
DOB: January 5, 1994 (age, 22)
Draft: 2012, 12th overall
How acquired: Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed: 2012--Entry-level deal (one-year slide,) 3yr./$4.2M, $92.5k annual signing bonus, $1.425M total performance bonuses
Final year of contract: 2015-16, RFA
2015-16 Stats: 71 games, 7 goals, 11 assists, 18 points, 0 +/-
What we wrote preseason: The Sabres headed into the 2015-16 season with four top-six players locked in and the need to find a winger for Jack Eichel on the second line. Matt Moulson was a possibility based upon his success with John Tavares but we surmised that Zemgus Girgensons might end up being a better fit for Eichel for one overriding reason: Speed.
Girgensons is mainly known for his two-way game at this point in his young career as well as intangibles. He scored 15 goals and added 15 assists in 61 games the prior season but head coach Dan Bylsma gave us his perspective on Girgensons saying that he's " a heart and soul, workin', gritty guy that kinda makes them go. Is he a No.1 center in the league? I don't think anyone's gonna put him there but he's a guy I think can offer some protection to some of the younger players that are coming to the team in Sam Reinhart and the second pick overall (Eichel.)"
What we wrote mid-season: "disappointing on the offensive side (2g, 3a) but one would think that he's not been disappointing in the role Bylsma has given him. As the third-line center Girgensons has had the unenviable task of taking on the opposition's top lines all season. And he's managed a minus-1. Former coach Jim Montgomery told us, "whatever situation he is put in the coach is going to love him and his teammates are going to love him." I can appreciate that.
Impressions on his play this year: No matter how you look at his situation this year-- everything ranging from a former first round pick who was moved around too much to a projected bottom-six player who was miscast in a top-six, scoring role--disappointment was the overriding theme with Girgensons this season. Regardless of his production, which left much to be desired, he still was defensively responsible enough to finish the season third amongst regulars in plus/minus with an even rating.
Girgensons has shown throughout his short career that he can score but he's also shown that it takes him a while to acclimate to a new situation. It took most of the season in Rochester for him to figure out the pro game and it took him a full season in Buffalo to figure out the NHL game. Last season was yet another new situation as Bylsma brought in a whole new system and 2016-17 will give us a pretty good indication as to whether Girgensons' propensity for adapting to change will continue.
Questions moving forward: Which year was an aberration? His 30 points (15+15) and -16 plus/minus in 61 games or 18 points (7+11), even plus/minus last season? Can he stay healthy? Injuries have been apart of the equation ever since his rookie season. At 22 yrs. old it may still be too early to tell but is he a more like a Mike Grier who can score on a breakaway? An inconsistent, streaky, Drew Stafford-like scorer? A solid, all-situations, Curtis Brown-type? Will he continue to adapt? And maybe the big one, how/where does he fit into the Sabres plans moving forward?