The 2015 NHL Draft will forever be known as the Jack Eichel draft for Sabres fans, but that draft also landed two of the best defensive prospects the Sabres have.
Both Brendan Guhle (Rochester), and Will Borgen (St. Cloud State) came from the 2015 NHL. All Sabres fans got a glimpse into the future with Guhle this season, but a forgotten Will Borgen has been developing quite nicely in the NCAA.
The St. Cloud State defender has been playing so well that he will be heading to the Olympics to represent the USA.
In 25 NCAA games this season, Borgen has scored once and added 10 assists for 11 points, three points behind a career high.
Borgen is a big bodied defender, at 6-2 187 the right-handed shot can punish opposing team’s players every time they come down the ice.
He is one of the most intriguing prospects the Sabres have, he is an excellent skater, can move the puck well but is also a responsible defender who doesn’t put his team in bad spots.
Borgen has a +11 rating, while +/- isn’t a very good stat because it heavily relies on the success of all five guys on the ice, it can help show that Borgen is a reliable player who protects his own end with good degree of success.
As of right now the only downside to Will Borgen is that he isn’t signed yet, but with him being named to Olympic team many believe he is ready to make the jump to the Sabres next year.
As of now, I think Borgen and his advisor see a good opportunity for him in Buffalo. Olympics are a signal that he’s ready to move forward with his career, which could work in Sabres favor. Until I hear anything different, I’m assuming he leaves and signs with Buff.
— Kris Baker (@SabresProspects) January 8, 2018
Obviously, some fans will be worried, as they are with any NCAA player close to free agency eligibility but until a report comes out and states otherwise I too believe Borgen will sign with Buffalo at the end of the season.
From watching some video of Borgen’s game there is a lot to like about the 21-year old defender:
His Puck Handling Skills
His Defensive Reliability
In today’s NHL, the Derian Hatcher type is extinct. No longer can defenders succeed in this league by purely punishing opposing players. Today defencemen must have excellent skating ability, they have to be able to join the rush on offence and be able to handle to speed of opposing players on the defensive side of the game.
Borgen is a good skater, although he isn’t a flashy defender he has the ability to help on offence while being able to use his skating ability to help him get back and defend the rush.
Not every defenceman can skate like Erik Karlsson, but not every defenceman needs to. Borgen’s skating is very good, but it’s just one of the assets that make him an excellent prospect for the Sabres.
When I talk about Borgen’s puck handling I’m not talking about his hands, or slick stick handling. I’m talking about how he handles himself when the puck is on his stick.
Whether it’s in his own zone, the neutral zone or the offensive zone Borgen looks poised with the puck on his stick. He can make breakout passes look easy at times, using his vision and smarts to find the right lane and fire a pass to his teammate.
He may not score a lot, but in the offensive zone he looks like he belongs. On the Sabres defenders (Falk or Gorges) can look so out of place in the attacking zone, it’s nice to see defensive prospects like Borgen look comfortable on offence.
As a defender, it’s critical that players know proper positioning in their own zone. After watching Borgen on video, this seems to be his best trait.
Borgen is a quiet defender, what I mean is that you might not notice the things he does but if he wasn’t out there you would notice.
He reminds me a lot of Jake McCabe when he was in college, he was reliable in his own end constantly made plays on defence that allowed his team to transition smoothly into an offensive attack.
As said earlier, he is a bigger body and can use his size to his advantage. At times, you’ll see him outmuscle opposing players in front of the net for positioning. He isn’t afraid to get involved physically, and has the awareness to make sure that he is rarely out of position.
The Olympics kick off February 9, and with no NHL players fans will need something to get them excited about.
Well watching Borgen on one of the biggest stages of the world qualifies, and if he looks comfortable or excels in the Olympics I’d say there is a excellent chance that Borgen will be playing pro hockey next year.
Projected NHL Arrival: 2019-2020
Projected Role: 4th or 5th Defenceman
I think that Borgen has the potential to possibly play in the top four of an NHL team, but even if he ends up on the third pairing he will be a good shutdown defender that can play on the penalty kill, and can help a team
Stats provided by Eliteprospects
Follow @TheChargingBUF for more Sabres updates, and myself @austin_broad for more news on Sabres prospects, your input is always welcomed