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Zemgus Girgensons signs deal with Sabres: Is he Kelowna bound?

Cam Charron
Buzzing The Net

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Zemgus Girgensons

Couple of things of note in the CHL today as far as player movement goes. The major story is that Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo's No. 14 pick in last month's NHL Entry Draft from the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints, has signed an entry-level contract with the Sabres.

The likely scenario is that Girgensons, who is now ineligible to play with the University of Vermont Catamounts, will go play with Buffalo's American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester. But Kelowna, who own his Canadian Hockey League rights after drafting him 45th overall in the 2011 CHL import draft, may be able to pitch for Girgensons to join them this upcoming season.

"It is with mixed emotions that I announce that Zemgus Girgensons will not enroll at UVM in September and instead sign an NHL contract with the Buffalo Sabres," UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon said Friday through a news release.

"Throughout the recruiting process, Zemgus has been very loyal to UVM, turning down offers to play Major Junior Hockey as well as Russia's premier professional league, the KHL, in order to maintain his goal of playing for the Catamounts," Sneddon said.

"We have stated often that if we are going to lose Zemgus, we hope it's to the NHL team that selects him in the draft.  Buffalo feels confident that Zemgus can play for them this year as well as with the Rochester Americans of the AHL," Sneddon said. "We support Zemgus and wish him the best of luck as he begins his professional career with Buffalo. [Burlington Free Press]

Girgensons is a highly-touted two-way player from Latvia and, never having played in major junior before, is eligible to play in the American Hockey League. International players coming to North America may think twice about lacing up for their CHL club after what happened to Alexandr Khokhlachev, who was one of those "too good for major junior, not good enough for the NHL, not eligible for AHL" type players.

Khokhlachev told our friend Andrey Osadchenko that he'd have played for Providence if he could.

So this all comes down to the Rochester Americans coaching staff. He'll go to both camps. If Rochester don't feel he's ready, the only other place he'd be able to go would be Kelowna if they hold onto his rights.

The other major story today is Jack Eichel, the 15th overall pick by the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL draft, will not report to the 'Q' this season, deciding instead to up with the U.S. national development program.

Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell declined to comment, but an announcement could be coming in the next few days.

On draft day, Russell described the six-foot, 175-pound centre as "the best player in the draft" and said the Mooseheads were "confident" they could get the Boston University-bound teen to change his course. [Metro News]

This is a big loss for Halifax. The Mooseheads have a slight advantage when attempting to recruit American-born players since they don't have the language barrier. Who knows if the scholarship cap for U.S. players was a factor, but with the amount of young talent on the Mooseheads that could stick around for another couple of years, it was probably worth the risk for Russell to spend a high pick on a talented player with the hope he'd come to Canada to play.

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