Entering this season as expected all of the talk was centered around the new faces of Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Ryan O’Reilly. The Sabres were entering a new era in their franchise. Through all of the hype and early season talk one player was almost forgotten.
Zemgus Girgensons was the top line center for the Sabres last season and potentially the team MVP. Girgensons made his first All-Star appearance last season. The voting made have been skewed due to the high volume of votes that came from Girgensons home country of Latvia, but the 21-year-old was still deserving of the honor. In his second NHL season he had a career year with 15 goals and 30 points in 61 games.
The former first round pick missed the final 20 games of the season and was on pace to score 20 goals and 40 points before his injury. Girgensons played big minutes for Buffalo last season on both the power play and penalty kill. He went up against the opponents top line on a nightly basis and was still able to be a very productive player.
This season the 2012 14th overall pick was dropped down on the roster to start the season and moved to the wing with the new additions. It didn’t take long for Girgensons to remind Sabres fans of the type of player he is and make an impact on the ice. After the second period on opening night Girgensons was moved up to play on the wing with Eichel and Kane.
Through the first two periods against Ottawa, the Sabres offense struggled to get anything going. Once Girgensons was moved up to the line with Eichel and Kane, the trio came alive. The line began to take over the game for the Sabres and create scoring chances on nearly every shift throughout the third period. In the second game of the season, Head Coach Dan Blysma used Girgensons to spark another line. He was put on the top line with O’Reilly and Tyler Ennis who struggled in the opener. Again the Latvian winger provided a spark to the line and was the best line for the Sabres throughout the game.
Girgensons has started off the season playing very well. He’s provided great depth and energy to the lineup so far. Girgensons has yet to show up on the score sheet, but he’s leading the team in Corsi with a 60.56 percentage. The points will come and the effort will remain at a high level. The young forward will be very important piece to the Sabres success this season and his presence in the lineup should not be forgotten.