ROCHESTER – The first thing that stands out about Will Borgen is his size.
The native of Moorehead, Minn., is listed at 6-foot-2, which, in itself, creates an advantage as a defenseman. But when he first arrived at St. Cloud State for his college career, he needed to adjust his game.
See, being the biggest guy on the ice when he was in high school meant he was a bit of a rover – expected to do it all.
When he arrived on campus for the Huskies, his role became more defined and his game was refined in large part by coach Bob Motzko.
"I think I got a little bit bigger, a little bit smarter in my decision making," Borgen said on Thursday after the Rochester Americans practiced in BlueCross Arena. "It was three years. I spent a while with (Motzko) and I learned a lot. He changed me into the game I play now. In high school I was part rover because you're not playing as good competition. He kinda put me in my place at St. Cloud and put me on defense playing penalty kill and stuff. I wasn't much of an offensive guy there."
Borgen didn't put up big points for the Huskies, netting two goals and 13 assists in his junior campaign. But he has a heavy shot and did record 56 blocks in 36 games this season, all things which Amerks coach Chris Taylor has seen from Borgen in the last three practices in Rochester.
The 21-year-old decided to forgo his senior season at St. Cloud State and join the Buffalo Sabres organization, which drafted him in the fourth round, 92nd overall, in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Borgen signed a three-year entry level contract but also signed what's known as an ATO, or amateur tryout contract, which allows him to play the rest of this season, including playoffs, with Rochester.
"He's a big guy and adds some grit to our back end," Taylor said. "He's a simple player and has a big shot. That's what we're hoping he will bring to simplify our game back there. From what I've heard, he plays simple, he plays hard, guys don’t want to go in front of the net. We need those type of players to giver our goalie some space and clear out in front of the net. And he's got a big shot so we're hoping he creates and adds a lot to our defense corps. We're lucky to have him."
Lucky to have him, but it presents a bit of a challenge. Players have been working to get in the lineup all season long while others currently up with Buffalo will return to Rochester for the Amerks first playoff run since 2014.
But there is a certain luxury the Amerks have already clinching a playoff berth with eight regular season games left. Borgen did not play for Rochester Wednesday but will certainly see some game action soon.
"There's a challenge to get him in the lineup first and foremost because guys have been here all year," Taylor said. "And I respect the guys that have been here all year. But everybody's been in the same situation. Everyone's been Will Borgen at one point. So everyone's got to realize we've got eight games here, we can get some guys in, rest other guys and it's not bad to watch games from up top. We're using everybody and want to see where everybody fits in for the upcoming playoffs."
Borgen already has some experience around high-level players. He was part of the U.S. Olympic Team although he did not see any game action.
Still being around the likes of former Amerks standout Brian Gionta helped Borgen prepare for the latest step on his hockey journey.
"Obviously it was a little bit of a downer not being able to play but the rest of it was awesome," Borgen said. "The guys were great. The experience of going to the ceremonies and the village was cool. Going to Olympics was just great to meet some of those ex-NHL players and pros and to learn from them. It helps me, even from my small time being there, to come here and know a little what to expect."