Literally and figuratively, Zemgus Girgensons has come a long way.
The projected first-rounder in June's NHL draft was 14 and living in his native Latvia four short years ago, but he had big dreams of emulating compatriots like Arturs Irbe, Sandis Ozolinsh and Kaspars Daugavins and continuing his hockey career on the other side of the world.
What he didn't have, though, was any connection to the North American game. So Girgensons, a 6-foot-1 center who starred for Latvia at the World Junior Championship last month, did what any teenager looking for information does instinctively: He went online.
"I wanted to know what American hockey was about," says Girgensons, who turned 18 Jan. 5. "I went on the Internet and looked everything up about universities. I did everything by myself."
With the goal of a college scholarship in mind and the help of his dad, a former professional player in Russia, the youngster signed up for a summer showcase in New England. A year later, at 15, he traveled to the same tournament again, and this time his physical play and nose for the net caught the eye of coaches with the Green Mountain Glades, a Junior B team based in Vermont, who asked him to stick around for the season.
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