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Sabres' Will Borgen enters first pro season with wealth of experience

Sabres defensive prospect Will Borgen's resume is striking for a player entering his first full professional season.

He played three years of collegiate hockey at St. Cloud State, capped off by being named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's best defensive defenseman as a junior. He made the U.S. roster for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang and notched three points in a bronze-medal winning stint with the Americans in the 2016 World Junior Championships.

He also gained valuable experience last year at the conclusion of his collegiate career, signing an amateur tryout agreement with the Rochester Americans that allowed him to get eight games in the American Hockey League  under his belt.

"I got to see what it's like being around pros, see how they train, see how they get their bodies right," said Borgen, who participated in his fourth development camp last week.

So, there shouldn't be any jitters or feelings of culture shock once he kicks off his inaugural professional campaign in a few months.

"I know what it's like," Borgen said. "I got my first game out of the way. I don't have to be nervous."

Borgen, a fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft, signed an entry-level deal with the Sabres in March, thus forgoing his senior year at St. Cloud State.

"I thought I was ready to move on," the Moorhead, Minn., native said. "But I had a lot of friends back there and I love St. Cloud. I had a great time. ... I got my three years there, and three years is plenty."

So far, the steady blue liner has far exceeded his draft position dating back to his first development camp. Three years later, he's become one of the most intriguing defensive prospects in the system.

"I got a little better every year," Borgen said. "My freshman year, I got to be with a lot of older players. We had a really good team. We were No. 1, No. 2 in the standings all year so I got to play with a lot of really good players. ... From there on I just got more confidence."

Borgen said no one with the Sabres has told him the team's plan for his development. If Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill's handling of Brendan Guhle last season is any indication, the organization will be patient. He'll likely join a promising blue line with the Americans, which could feature some combination of Nathan Paetsch, Zach Redmond, Guhle, Brandon Hickey and Lawrence Pilut.

"The guys I'm going to play with in Rochester, they're really great guys and great players," Borgen said.

That bodes well for the culture Botterill has attempted to build starting at the minor-league level. Borgen had to sit out during the Americans' playoff run last season, but he got a taste of the success watching from the sidelines.

"I got to see a team that had a winning season, see how they play in the playoffs," Borgen said. "It was fun to watch."

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