BUFFALO — Three weeks earlier, minutes after the Sabres moved up and selected center Zemgus Girgensons 14th overall at the NHL Entry Draft, the Latvian expressed his commitment to playing for the University of Vermont next season.
But Girgensons’ stance quickly changed. On Monday, the first day of summer development camp, he seemed to be seriously considering signing with the Sabres.
The 18-year-old impressed during the camp, and following a strong scrimmage performance Thursday night, he said he hoped to make a decision in a day.
Later that night, Girgensons phoned Jeff Sneddon, Vermont’s coach, and told him he would be turning professional.
On Friday, Girgensons inked a three-year, entry-level contract with the Sabres.
The deal certainly came together quickly.
“We talked about this for a day and a little bit, and it was a pretty hard decision just because I was close to … Sneddon,” Girgensons, smiling and wearing a Sabres polo shirt, said Friday inside the First Niagara Center. “This is the toughest decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
Obviously, Girgensons wrestled with his decision.
“It was laying on my mind heavy just because I was close in Vermont, and it’s a really tough decision for a kid to make,” he said. “No one was pushing me anywhere. I was the only one who made this decision.”
What changed Girgensons’ mind?
“I was really committed to Vermont because Kevin Sneddon’s staff is one of the best NCAA staffs,” he said. “They’re really friendly and nice. It was really tough. But after this camp I think I did pretty good, and I gave my best effort. I (started understanding) I might have a shot at turning pro right away.”
Girgensons said Sneddon “understood everything just because we were so close.”
“He knew that this might happen, and he was prepared for it,” he said.