Buffalo used their first round selection (12th overall) to select Mikhail Grigorenko before trading up from 21st to 14th and chose Zemgus Girgensons.
Grigorenko, from Russia, played this past season with the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Hockey League under head coach Patrick Roy. He netted 40 goals with 45 assists in 59 games while also scoring 18 points at the World Juniors to help lead Russia to a bronze medal. He was the highest-scoring rookie in the QMJHL and was awarded the Michel Bergeron trophy for Best Offensive Rookie.
Grigorenko was ranked third for the entire draft by The Hockey News but lasted until the 12th pick.
“I am happy to be a member of the Buffalo Sabres,” said Girgensons moments after being selected. “They talked with me during the season, the combine and a few days before the draft.”
Former Sabres Alexander Mogilny, who hails from the same hometown, is his favorite player. “I have two months to work and improve my quickness and I think I will be ready to the NHL this year.”
As for the chance to prove 11 other teams wrong for not selecting him earlier, he said, “I really don’t care about 29 other teams in the league; I care about just one team the Buffalo Sabres and I want to prove them right.”
Buffalo then moved up seven positions by swapping first round picks and giving up their second rounder (42nd overall) to select Girgensons.
Buffalo still has Calgary’s second round pick (44th overall) they acquired in the Robyn Regehr transaction last year.
Girgensons becomes the first Latvian native to be selected in the first round of an NHL draft. He played the past two seasons with Dubuque of the USHL and was their captain this past season. The big center scored a team high 24 goals and 31 assists in 49 games this past season. He is committed to play for former NHLer Kevin Sneddon and the University of Vermont next season.
The scouting report on the 6’1”, 201 lb left shot is strong on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle.
As for being the first Latvian ever chosen in the first round, he said, “I am very proud to be the first and represent my country this way. Our youth hockey programs are growing and I hope I can be an example for other players to follow.”
Buffalo is schedule to select 44th as the second round begins at 10am Saturday. They have a third rounder, one selection in the fifth and sixth plus two choices in the seventh round.