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Sabres’ Grigorenko: ‘No one’s fault but mine that I didn’t go into the NHL’

Jul 15, 2014, 6:25 PM EDT

Mikhail Grigorenko Getty Images

BUFFALO — When the Buffalo Sabres selected Mikhail Grigorenko with the 12th overall selection in 2012, many wondered if the team was taking a risk on a player whom many scouts differed on just how good he would be.

Since then, Grigorenko has started off the past two seasons in Buffalo only to be sent back to his junior team, the Quebec Remparts. The 20-year-old Russian forward is currently in the midst of his third prospect camp with the Sabres and knows he has a lot to prove this year. He also knows where to lay some of the blame for not sticking with the big club.

“From past experience I realized it’s probably no one’s fault but mine that I didn’t go into the NHL,” Grigorenko said at First Niagara Center on Tuesday. “If I want to play in the best league in the world, it’s just on me. No one’s going to make me play just because I was drafted in the first round. I just have to go out there and be the best.”

Being the best is something the Sabres have been eager to witness. In his abbreviated stints with the team the past two seasons, he’s scored three goals and added five assists in 43 games. In Quebec it’s been a different story.

Grigorenko has excelled against players his own age the past two seasons. In 56 games with the Remparts he scored 45 goals with 93 points. This season he’ll either be with the Rochester Americans in the AHL or Buffalo – a challenge he’s eager to accept.

“It’s going to be good for me to play against men for sure this year,” he said. “I’m really excited for this year. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get way better than I did last year.”

His time in Buffalo has come at an awkward point for the organization. He’s played for three different head coaches with Lindy Ruff, Ron Rolston, and Ted Nolan. With Tim Murray replacing Darcy Regier as general manager, it’s almost an entirely different organization. Throw in the coaches he’s played for with Quebec, Team Russia at World Juniors, and in the AHL with the Rochester Americans that’s a lot of different voices telling him what to do.

“It’s pretty tough,” Grigorenko admitted. “Learning the new strategies and some coaches like you more, some coaches like you less. You have different roles in each team you play for, I was lucky enough that all the coaches were all really nice to me. I thought every single coach I had tried to help me to be a better hockey player and a better person.”

source: Getty ImagesAfter all he’s seen and gone through in his professional career to this point, you’d think he might have too much going through his head to help him become the dynamic offensive player the Sabres are hoping he’ll blossom into. That’s an issue he’s worked on to fix, but the pressure to perform in the NHL is clearly there.

“I need to think a little less,” Grigorenko said. “I just have to want the puck and go in on every single battle and want the puck. I’m an offensive player so I just need to score goals. I have to bring the offense. If I don’t score goals and don’t have points then I guess no one needs me on the team now.”

Grigorenko will look to earn a spot with the Sabres at training camp in September. He came into prospect camp at 218 pounds, up 10 pounds from last year, he said. He also credits skating instructor Dawn Braid for helping him get his stride and technique straightened out.

If all of those adjustments to his game and seemingly to his approach off the ice work out, the Sabres will have a potentially dangerous offensive weapon as part of their rebuild.

  1. djshnooks - Jul 15, 2014 at 6:37 PM

    Nice article. Can’t wait to see all the uninformed bashing comments here.

    This kid is still only 20 years old and he is still an elite prospect…with loads of skill.

    He started showing a lot of progress in Rochester last year at the end of the season, and his 200 foot game was much better than what it had been to begin with.

    He’s coming along…this is his year to shine in Rochester for a full season and stake his claim as a future cornerstone for Buffalo.

    Between him and Armia, that’s 2/3 of what could potentially be a dominant line.

    Here’s to hoping they figure it out! :-)

  2. stcrowe - Jul 15, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    He is being a good sport about it but Regier, Ruff and Rolston are to blame. He should have been sent back to the QMJHL right from the first training camp. He needs ice time at his age. A full year or two of him back in juniors right after training camp would have done him a lot more good than sitting and waiting in Buffalo for a chunk of the season.

  3. djshnooks - Jul 15, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    Seriously, Joe…well done, again.

    You don’t have to post this comment, but I wanted to make a comment just for you.

    For once, between the hockey, football and basketball pages, I think I found someone who takes some pride in his work.

    Your writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation…everything was on point.

    Kudos to you, sir…very well written!!!!!

    (Keep it up…let it rub off on others…the more you write like this, the better the page is going to get…which is what we want.)

    • raleighcaniac - Jul 15, 2014 at 7:21 PM

      Hey DJ sounds like you want to give Joe a back rub.

      • Joe Yerdon - Jul 15, 2014 at 7:40 PM

        Who hates back rubs?

      • therealjr - Jul 16, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        Actually I was thinking the only thing dj forgot to mention was what time the family bbq was this weekend.

        Just busting your chops Joe.

  4. mpops86 - Jul 15, 2014 at 7:01 PM

    “20 years old”

    Right. No one actually believes that.

    • hockeyflow33 - Jul 15, 2014 at 11:26 PM

      I believe you’re looking for Pro Baseball Talk

  5. zinger99 - Jul 15, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    He can’t talk now. He has a sore jaw. Heh,heh…

  6. djshnooks - Jul 15, 2014 at 7:49 PM

    Nope, just want writers to learn to write.

    Seems Joe has learned how to do just that.

    Usually you commend people on a job well done, especially when their co-workers or colleagues never seem to get it right.

    Maybe you’ll learn about that someday.

    As far as Grigorenko, a birthdate is a birthdate. He’s 20 years old. That’s a fact.

    And for the schmucks who question Buffalo’s fans…there are 10,000 people here right now watching a prospects scrimmage…that says quite a bit, no?

    Again…a PROSPECT’S SCRIMMAGE!!!

    • i1theinternet - Jul 16, 2014 at 9:24 AM

      Anybody who questions Buffalo’s sports fans is ignorant.

      http://tinyurl.com/md5mh8j

  7. djshnooks - Jul 15, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    Just look at the basketball page…

    “Dwayne Wade’s has signed contract.”

    Seriously, how pathetic is that?

  8. zinger99 - Jul 15, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    Oh,so much to do in Buffalo!! And after the scrimmage we’ll visit the best of Buffalo’s potholes!!

    • cantescapekarma - Jul 15, 2014 at 8:05 PM

      Speaking if the Prospect’s scrimmage game today – there are roughly 10,000 fans at the arena right now watching the game. That’s more fans than some NHL teams get during the regular season…!
      Oh, and Buffalo has got TONS of talent coming in the next few years. I am very impressed watching this game. Grigorenko has been flashing some big skill these last couple days. I was happy with his play in Rochester at the end of last season. Whether in Buffalo or Rochester this coming season, I still look forward to watching his progress. Once he starts playing with confidence at the NHL level, he will be tough to handle (especially if he reaches his potential).
      Linus Ullmark looks very impressive in goal too. H could very well be the future #1 goaltender for Buffalo, and a very good one at that.

      3-0 white team, and Kea & Florintino just dropped the gloves, Kea won. This has been a great game so far! I absolutely love the compete level from almost every player. Ted Nolan will have these guys “the hardest working team in hockey” again for sure. Excited for Buffalo’s future.

      • elrock7 - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:32 PM

        As all your American cities are slowly going bankrupt.

      • i1theinternet - Jul 16, 2014 at 9:25 AM

        go back to Russia, commie

    • elrock7 - Jul 15, 2014 at 9:57 PM

      Yeah because there is so much to do in Buffalo! Way more than that nasty, centre of the hockey universe city down the QEW.

      At least while you are driving by the boarded up, or burnt up buildings in downtown Buffalo, there will be no traffic.

      • obamareallysucks - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:09 PM

        you mean the little stepsister to the north? nice little tier 2 country you have there.

      • donfocker89 - Jul 15, 2014 at 11:26 PM

        Ah there it is. A blind Maple Leafs fan. Yes, you are correct that Toronto is a better city than Buffalo. You and I have grown up with different things and therefor you ridicule the small things, while I, appreciate them. But that’s not what this is about. Even though the Sabres finished dead last this year, I still believe they will be better off than the Leafs and eventually a better team again (Can’t get any worse, right?). Keep on believing that Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf will take Toronto to the promise land. There are reasons players didn’t flock to Toronto this off-season. It wasn’t because of the city.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jul 16, 2014 at 7:28 AM

        Native Torontonian here. Given the choice between living in Buffalo or living in Toronto, I’d choose Amsterdam.

      • buddysguys - Jul 16, 2014 at 9:01 AM

        SARS ….YOUR CITY WAS SHUT DOWN DUE TO A DISEASE LIKE ITS THE 1800’s. YOUR CITY IS A JOKE, ITS JUST A MELTING POT OF THE WORLDS MOST DISEASED. YOUR STRIPPERS ARE NICE THOUGH…BUT AGAIN DISEASED. GO WASH YOURSELF BEFORE EVEN SAYING THE NAME BUFFALO WE DONT WANT YOUR GERMS TO SPREAD.

      • elrock7 - Jul 16, 2014 at 7:43 PM

        donfocker I was responding to that vanek clown and that kaptaanamerica wad who both keep trolling every leaf post putting down team and city.

        Secondly, there were no FAs out there that Leafs pursued. If you had any knowledge about the Leafs youwould know what Shanahan and Nonis plan for the future is, developing what they already have instead of overpaying for marginal talent.

  9. justanotherphillyfan - Jul 15, 2014 at 8:21 PM

    Nothing wrong with this kid I think… His numbers are good and looks like he has a good attitude so what if he will play another year in the AHL to mature his game more against older people,

    But then again, you can hear 750 prospects talk in general during all those camps and they all say the same thing.

  10. mz1394 - Jul 15, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    Wade article 63 comments and counting . Sabres article 12 and 4 are by that loser djsucks . You would know all about pathetic your a sabres and bills fan lmmfao

    • obamareallysucks - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:10 PM

      can’t find the ky jelly for your boyfriend?

      • mz1394 - Jul 16, 2014 at 6:46 AM

        I left it in your moms nightstand loser

      • anthj99 - Jul 16, 2014 at 9:05 AM

        Oooooh. That mz, he’s so fresh!

  11. mpops86 - Jul 15, 2014 at 9:28 PM

    Loads of scouts believe he’s 22, not 20. It’s among the worst-kept secrets in the league that hardly anyone believes that.

  12. kgun80 - Jul 15, 2014 at 10:04 PM

    There are so many young prospects with a ton if talent in the Sabres organization now. Hope this kid can make it . The last 2 seasons may have been a reality check for him and hopefully he’s putting the effort in now. The knock on him coming out was that he was lazy and relied on his talent, let’s see if he has changed.

    And as for Jets fans who troll Sabres and Bills articles. I know your sad that you have to watch your lame duck coach hope that Mike Vick or Geno can carry his team. Reality is setting in we’re getting better and the Jets are just doing what they do get free agents who are over rated or past their prime and yap yap yap. And even worse your probably an Islanders fan too…so thanks for the draft picks!

  13. raleighcaniac - Jul 16, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    As a dual citizen (Canada/US) lets stick to hockey boys and leave the dry humping out of it. And as far as hockey goes, at this time of year hope springs eternal for both teams. One thing we can all agree on however is that both the Leafs and Sabres just sucked last year (of course my handle gives a bit away on that front as well)….

  14. Hard to BeLeaf - Jul 16, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Sounds like he’s being too hard on himself, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He’s just developing like most prospects do. More time in juniors and a stint in the AHL can’t hurt. Buffalo really has no reason to rush this guy.

  15. djshnooks - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    Keep insulting Buffalo and my comments.

    I don’t live in Buffalo, I actually live in the Finger Lakes on one of the most expensive lake-fronts in the country.

    Keep insulting my comments…I at least have a high school diploma and college degree and can coherently type a comment with correct spelling and grammar…as anyone in the world who has ever passed elementary school should be able to do, apparently besides canadian idiots.

    If only Canada would slip into the ocean, nobody would miss the place or people.

  16. djshnooks - Jul 16, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    Not to mention, how stupid can one be?

    10,000 people going out to a prospects scrimmage has nothing to do with what’s in town…it’s about supporting a hockey team no matter what, something Toronto would know nothing about. What do you have, an NHL team? You realize the NFL in a city trumps everything, right?

    Or do you refer to smoking crack, as “things to do,” like your beloved mayor?

    Buffalo is also home to plenty of very big colleges, but it’s clear you probably don’t know what those are because education isn’t a priority over in that hell hole.

    Do everyone a favor? Jump off a bridge.

  17. www.PolishX.Com - Jul 20, 2014 at 12:44 AM

    What I think is baffling like some have said HE”S 20 ..I mean if he went to college would anyone at all have any issues with a 20 year old high pick not being in the NHL , Rushing a kid who needs to grow some more gets you nothing but Nail Yakapov type of player . So he breaks in at 20-21 or even 22 ..Not a huge deal .

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