Drafting Grigorenko and Girgensons, The Sabres Add Size and Skill


The first round of the 2012 NHL Draft is in the books and the Buffalo Sabres’ front office should be walking away with a smiles on their faces. They started the round with a bang, when they grabbed Russia native, Mikhail Grigorenko, with the number 12 pick.

The Sabres then made a move, trading their second first round pick, 21st overall, and their first pick of the second round, 42nd overall, to the Calgary Flames for the 14th overall pick. With their newly acquired pick they selected Latvian, Zemgus Girgensons.

The Sabres entered the draft with a need for two things, skilled centers and size. They killed two birds with one stone drafting the big 6-foot-2 and 198 pound Girgensons, and the even bigger, 6-foot-3 and 200 pound Grigorenko.

Both of these forwards possess the offensive skill that bigger forwards often lack, have great vision on the ice and move the puck just as well. It’s as if these two were meant to come together, Grigorenko brings the skill to the situation while Girgensons adds the physicality and force to the equation.

Last season, Grigorenko lead all rookies in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 40 goals and 85 points in 59 games played for the Quebec Remparts.  Because some questioned his loyalty to the NHL, and the surge of defenseman taken in the first ten selections, Girgorenko surprisingly dropped down the draft board.

With the numbers he put up it is obvious the offensive power that comes with Grigorenko, but if he can learn to use his size to compliment his skill he could develop into a Rick Nash like force for the Sabres.

NHL Central Scouting had Grigorenko ranked third among North American skaters coming into the draft. Since Grigorenko was still available, the Sabres jumped on the opportunity and snagged the offensive center man. After watching some of his highlights, they may have stumbled onto a gem

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With their second addition of the first round, the Sabres once again improved their crops down the middle , and drafted Girgensons.  Girgensons is well on his way to being one of the best two-way centers the league could have.

Girgensons makes his living in the gritty areas of the ice, a place where his big frame is very useful, has a heavy shot and

Zemgus Girgensons Dubuque Fighting Saints
Jim Naprstek / Dubuque Fighting Saints

the hands that bring it all together.  Girgensons captained the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League last season, and in two seasons has lit the lamp 45 times and recorded 104 points in 100 games played.

Physically, Girgensons is ready for the NHL but will have to improve his skating ability before making the jump. In the future, Girgensons should fill a big hole that has been present on the Sabres’ roster for some time.

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The impact of these two may not be felt immediately, because the two will likely need some seasoning time before they’re ready for the big club. But, the future does look bright with these two in the Sabres’ system and  the Sabres’ future seems to be in good hands.

For a deeper look at the newest Sabres, be sure to check out the Hockey Writers’ coverage on each prospect in the Next Ones series, Grigorenko here and Girgensons here.

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