Welcome to the NHL: Girgensons breaks a shutout, MacKinnon gets two assists

Zemgus Girgensons (Getty Images)
Zemgus Girgensons (Getty Images)

Three more players made their NHL debuts Wednesday night, so here’s a nod to their performances. From Latvia, to Finland to Halifax, it was a night of international firsts.

Somewhere Latvian hockey fans are partying.

Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo
The Riga, Latvia native didn’t pull a Luke Gazdic and score on his first NHL shift, but he did pot a goal on his first shot – and I could swear I heard the Latvians cheering from here. Girgensons owes Brian Flynn a dinner for his strong forecheck that led to the goal. Drafted 14th overall in 2012, Girgensons is a USHL grad of the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Last season, he notched 17 points in 61 regular season AHL games and added three goals in three playoff games. A 6-foot-2, 194-pound center, he could grow into anything from a third line checker to a scorer.

Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo
A nod to Turku, Finland, home of Ristolainen, the eighth overall pick from the most recent draft. In his first game, the defenseman logged 16:44 of ice and put three shots on net, while blocking one at the other end. He didn’t get any points, but was given a fair amount of power play time that shows coach Ron Rolston’s belief in him. The soon-to-be 19-year-old is in his first season of North American hockey after spending the last two with TPS Turku of Finland’s top circuit, the SM-liiga.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
As highlighted in our morning roundup and evening recap, this summer’s first overall draft pick was a star in his first night of NHL action. He became the youngest player to ever wear a Nordiques/Avalanche jersey at 18 years, 31 days, which made him 204 days younger than Owen Nolan, who first suited up for the team in 1990. A nod to Nova Scotia and Halifax as the next young superstar set off on his journey through the NHL.