(Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman)
At just 20 years old, the Buffalo Sabres‘ Zemgus Girgensons leads the way in fan voting for the All Star Game with (currently) 803,805 votes. He added 400,000 votes in just one week and he can give a lot of credit to his home country, Latvia. Born January 5, 1994 in Riga, Latvia, Girgensons started playing at EVHS Hockey School and played several years in various leagues in Latvia. After moving to North America in 2009, he has played in the Empire Junior Hockey League (now the U.S. Premier Hockey League), the Eastern Junior Hockey League, the United States Hockey League, the American Hockey League, and now he is in 2nd season in the National Hockey League. He has also played for Latvia in both the World Junior Hockey Championships and most recently, the 2014 Olympics. With the surprising finish that Latvia displayed at the Olympics, it seems the country is really rooting for the only Latvian player currently in the NHL.
“The fans back home have always been all about hockey,” says Girgensons. “They’re just kind of crazy.”
At this point, he should be happy they are crazy about hockey since they are the ones helping him stay in the lead. Nearly 82% of his votes are coming from Latvia, and with roughly 2 million people in the Latvian population, it sure does seem like Girgensons will be suiting up for the All Star Game.
Girgensons is fairly unknown to people outside of Buffalo, NY and a lot of those people are not happy with this unknown player being in the lead. Most fans have their favorite players, who they of course would love to see in the game, so the frustration is understandable when you have a player who is not well-known and is beating out some of the top players in the league. The next closest players are Chicago Blackhawks teammates Patrick Kane with 375,758 votes and Jonathan Toews with 367,962 votes.
Girgensons has 420,000 more votes than the next closest players, so his Latvian countrymen are doing him well casting their ballots – and there are still about 3 weeks left to vote. Girgensons could be en route to be the highest vote-getter in All Star Game history if he continues receiving votes from his country and Sabres fans. The way it stands right now, Blackhawks fans better get voting if they want their players in the game.
Voting ends on January 1, and the top 3 forwards, 2 defensemen, and goaltender will move on to the All Star Game. Currently those in position to move on would be Girgensons, Kane, and Toews for forwards; Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith (361,830 votes), and Montreal Canadiens P.K. Subban (351,726 votes) for defensemen; and Blackhawks Corey Crawford, (311,166 votes) for goalie. Fans can continue to vote on NHL.com/vote and those eligible in the U.S. and Canada can enter for a chance to win a trip to the 2015 All Star Game in Columbus, taking place on January 24 and 25.