When going through their draft year, it is easy for junior players to look ahead and not live in the moment.
For Dubuque Fighting Saints forward Zemgus Girgensons, he has learned he has no choice but to take his draft year day by day.
Girgensons, in addition to the grind of junior hockey, is currently working on graduating from two high schools, a Latvian and United States school.
“It’s certainly not easy, but I’m trying to do what I can to balance [school and hockey],” Girgensons said. “I still think more about hockey than I do school, but I’ve been doing pretty well with school.”
A tough early schedule in which the Fighting Saints played 11 of their first 15 games on the road tested Girgensons, but with classes online, the University of Vermont commit states he made it work. Both high schools allow the Girgensons to get his work done online—something he says is more difficult than attending actual school.
“With school online, you’re your own teacher and it’s harder to get help if you don’t understand something,” he said. “There are also a lot of lessons to help out, but they take a lot of time to watch.”
School is not the only thing Girgensons uses the Internet in order to better him. Girgensons will frequently browse scouting websites and see what scouts see from his game. Unlike most draft eligible players who try to block the draft talk surrounding them during the season, Girgensons enjoys the online chatter about his game.
“I always go online see what people are saying; there’s things I can learn from it,” said Girgensons who is slotted 23rd overall in Future Considerations’ ranking for March. “I think it’s a good thing there’s such things as draft rankings so you can see how you are compared to others, but ultimately it comes down to just playing your game on the ice.”
Most of these draft reports on Girgensons raved about his performance at the World Junior Championship in Alberta, where the Latvian recorded two goals in six games. While Latvia struggled to win a game in the tournament, Girgensons had lukewarm opinions on his play.
“I thought I did alright, but it wasn’t my best tournament,” said Girgensons who was one of the youngest players in the tournament. “We played a lot of good teams and did the best we could. It was good we did not relegated.”
Despite the departure of his two linemates from last season – both of which were the two leading scorers on the Dubuque team – Girgensons has had a very impressive season statistically averaging over a point per game. The centre has recorded 15 goals and 24 assists through 37 games and his plus-13 leads the team.
It has not been all smooth sailing this year as Girgensons has missed games on two separate occasions due to injury. Girgensons missed two games because of a lingering hip injury shortly after returning from Alberta.
Girgensons also missed playing in the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game during his recovery time. The six-foot-two, 185-pounder is currently out with an ankle injury after being pushed into his own goalie on Feb. 24. Since then, he has been out for two games, but anticipates returning soon.
“I would have done anything to be at the Top Prospects Game, but my hip was not 100 percent and I had school too.” Girgensons said.
As for the NHL Entry Draft in June, the Riga, Latvia native states he has not thought much about it and much like everything else in his life, he is taking it day by day.
“I’m just trying to focus on my school work and hockey right now. Once the season is done then I’ll look forward to the draft.”
Which is where he’ll allow himself to get caught up in the moment.