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Get to Know Mikhail Grigorenko

Austin Manak Avatar
June 28, 2015


It was a busy weekend for the Colorado Avalanche, one that saw them ship Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn to the Buffalo Sabres in a blockbuster deal. In-your-face defenseman Nikita Zadorov was the big fish coming Colorado’s way, and American-born J.T. Compher is a nice prospect entering his junior season at the University of Michigan.

The Avalanche also landed the 31st overall selection in the 2015 NHL draft, which was subsequently traded to the San Jose Sharks for the 39th pick (AJ Greer) as well as a second and sixth round pick in 2016 (originally the Avalanche’s choices).

A nice haul overall for the Avalanche, and the biggest wild-card in the deal hasn’t yet been mentioned. Also coming to Colorado is Mikhail Grigorenko, a 6’3″ and 210 lb Russian centerman, who was the 12th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Draft. Grigorenko played junior hockey in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts under then head-coach Patrick Roy.

While with Roy’s Remparts, Grigorenko enjoyed tremendous success, posting 40 goals and 85 points in 59 games during his draft-year of 2011-2012, and 30 goals and 54 points during the 2012-13 season (he remained in juniors due to the NHL lockout). Since that time, his career hasn’t quite gotten off the landing pad as smoothly as he and the Sabres would have hoped.

After the NHL lockout, Grigorenko made his NHL debut and played 25 games with Buffalo in the 2013 shortened season. In limited minutes, whilst getting his feet wet, he put up a goal and five points in 25 games.

The 2013-14 season was when turbulence began. Grigorenko started off with the Sabres, but only put up two goals and three points in 18 games amidst big expectations, which got him a quick ticket back to Quebec. Getting sent to juniors as a 19-year old didn’t sit well with Grigorenko, and he initially refused to report to Quebec. After a few days he did put on the Remparts jersey once again, and after finishing out his season in juniors strong, he got his first taste of the Sabres’ AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans.

Last season, Grigorenko split time between the Sabres and the Americans. While in Buffalo, he continued to struggle to have an impact, posting three goals and six points in 25 games. However, he did get some positive traction during his time in Rochester putting up 14 goals and 36 points in 43 games.

Now 21-years old, Grigorenko’s career can be summed up as somewhat of a disappointment, with many complicated elements contributing to him not yet reaching his potential. The Sabres initially burdened him with responsibility to turn their franchise around. Grigorenko wasn’t up to the task, and has been eaten alive during his time in a Buffalo uniform.

Frustration has seemed to grow on both ends, as the Sabres were quick to lose patience with their top-prospect, and Grigorenko lost confidence after being bounced around from league-to-league. There were even rumors of a return to Russia to play in the KHL being considered by Grigorenko, especially as competition grew around him in the prospect-rich Sabres organization.

The Avalanche acquire a player who is undoubtedly talented, but has yet to figure it out at the NHL level, often being accused of sporting a nonchalant and lackadaisical attitude on the ice. Perhaps a change of scenery, some crisp mile-high air, and reunion with his former bench-boss, Patrick Roy, will be exactly what Grigorenko needs to revamp his career. It’s fair to point out, Grigorenko has a mere 6 goals and 14 points in 68 career NHL games, but he’s also still only 21 years old. Plenty of time to put those ‘growing pains behind him, and become an impact player for the Avs.

He’ll be one of many offensively gifted players in Colorado, expected not to be the focal point of the offense, but rather a piece of the machine. With a bevy of centers in the mix already in Colorado, look for Grigorenko to slide to the wall, and primarily play his secondary left-wing position. Joe Sakic has also commented that he hopes Grigorenko will improve the Avalanche’s power play. As initially stated, he really is the ultimate wild-card in this deal, and it’s anybody’s guess if he will be a steal or a bust.

Here are a few snippets giving a glimpse of the type of player Grigorenko is (or perhaps could be), as well as his career statistics:

Player Breakdown at Hockey’s Future

Grigorenko is a gifted offensive center who possesses great patience with the puck and the ability to thread passes all over the ice. He is a smooth skater and has the potential to be a top scorer in the NHL. Grigorenko has been criticized for inconsistent and disinterested play in the past, though he has played through injuries.

Draft scouting report from Corey Pronman (A bit outdated, but interesting nonetheless)

Grigorenko is a very special kind of talent who scouts have been hearing about for many years. He absolutely burst onto the scene last year with a tremendous performance at the Under-18s. He’s an exceptionally gifted player who can control the flow of a hockey game seemingly at will with elite puck skills, vision, offensive creativity, and overall hockey sense.

He makes high level dekes seem effortless and is the kind of player who is able to slow the game down to his pace rather than try to keep up with it. His ability as a playmaker is really special as he is the classic “eyes in the back of his head” type of player who consistently makes high-level reads quickly and effectively.

Grigorenko’s hand skills allow him to keep the puck away from pursuers very well and when he’s setting up in open ice, the chances of a defender being able to cleanly check him is low. When you combine his puck skills and sense, though, you get the combination of tools that allow him to make “unique” plays, that after they happen, you try to remember about the last time you saw a play similar to that. He is an above-average skater who industry sources have described with the kind of stride that looks like he’s floating on the ice as he effortlessly picks up speed— especially for a bigger player.

Grigorenko also has a pretty decent array of shots and is certainly an above-average finisher. He is an advanced two-way thinker who gets the job done at a decent level in his own end, and while he struggled with that aspect of his game earlier in the year, he was much better later on. He has above-average size, and while he doesn’t really use his frame as much as he could, he’s decent in the physical aspects of hockey as he boxes out fine along the wall and will win some battles.

His work ethic draws issues at times but he’s not an extremely lazy player, though he’s not one who gives it 100% every shift. He’s also the kind of player who likes to slow the game down, so some observers perceive that as questionable work ethic. However, he’s the kind of talent who NHL sources have described as the best guy on the ice while he’s going at 75%.




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