BUFFALO, N.Y. - He's not your stereotypical European player. Zemgus Girgensons earned the nick-name "The Latvian Locomotive" by embracing the North American style of hockey at an early age.
The 19 year old from Riga, Latvia decided as a teenager that the NHL was his ultimate goal. To make that happen, he made the tough decision at age 15 to leave his home and move to the United States. He first played for the Green Mountain Glades of the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL). Next stop was the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League (USHL). During the 2011-2012 season, Girgensons committed to the University of Vermont, but instead decided to go pro.
The Sabres drafted him 14th overall with their second pick in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft. Girgensons became the highest draft pick ever for a Latvian hockey player.
After a season with the American Hockey League's (AHL) Rochester Americans, "Girgo" has established himself as a hard-worker who plays with a lot of grit. While he has a tremendous skill set, he can also play the role of agitator. It's something he says is a direct result of his decision to come to the United States as a teen.
"When I was younger a lot of coaches told me I should play a North American style, so when I was 15, it was the right decision to come here to pursue my dream."