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Under Pressure: Mikhail Grigorenko

Aug 28, 2014, 4:47 PM EST

Mikhail Grigorenko Getty Images

Mikhail Grigorenko is just 20 years old so it’s unfair to expect the world of him, but at the same time this should be a very important season from his perspective.

The Buffalo Sabres’ attempts to bring him to the NHL before he was arguably ready has created a situation where he’s already in the final season of his entry-level contract despite the fact that he’s played in just 43 games. The other way of looking at it is that Grigorenko has failed to live up expectations thus far despite being given multiple chances to prove himself in the NHL after being taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

“From past experience I realized it’s probably no one’s fault but mine that I didn’t go into the NHL,” Grigorenko said in July. “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.”

It is worth adding that Grigorenko has continued to show plenty of potential when he’s played in the QMJHL even if his performance with the Sabres has left something to be desired.

Although the Sabres are focused on the future and are therefore structured to provide young players with opportunities, Grigorenko is far from a lock to make the opening game roster. The silver lining is that he can now be sent to the AHL, which will give him a chance to gain experience playing against men so that he’s better prepared to eventually make the leap.

So this isn’t a make or break campaign for Grigorenko, but because his contract’s expiring, the difference between a breakout season and one where he’s stuck in the minors could be huge for him financially. Additionally, with Sam Reinhart looking to make an impact this season and the possibility that the Sabres will get another top forward prospect in the 2015 draft, Grigorenko might start to find himself becoming a smaller factor in the Sabres’ plans if he doesn’t establish himself in the not too distant future.

  1. djshnooks - Aug 28, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    He will spend the entire year in Rochester, where he’s belonged the last two years.

    He will play top-line minutes with another 1st round pick in Joel Armia…and they will play in every situation for the Amerks.

    It’s like Vanek and Pominville when they were in Rochester together…and they will probably come up together next year too.

    He’s young and still an elite prospect…putting him with talent that matches his will help him develop more. Working on the 4th line with John Scott and Ville Leino did nothing to help him and nobody should put too much stock into his performance, give his linemates/minutes.

    He will be just fine now that they can handle his situation the correct way.

  2. krebsy34 - Aug 28, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    If only he wasn’t required to be sent back to the Q but could’ve been sent to the AHL to begin with. It’s the best place for him to develop and to ease into the speed. I think the biggest hockey players moving up levels is adjusting to the speed. They can all “play hockey” but it’s realizing that you no longer have as much time as you used to that is the big step.

  3. leepetertk - Aug 28, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    I didn’t like it when Grigorenko blamed himself for not sticking in the NHL. As an 18 or 19 year old, it is very difficult to crack an NHL lineup and it would have been easy for the management team to assess that. Particularly in the lockout year/shortened season, why take him away from junior at that time? Maybe give him a taste of the NHL if you want to reward him, but ultimately return him to junior. But management tried to rush him… twice. Management has to be sure a teenager is ready to play against the worlds’ elite or else risk proper development. I think Buffalo gambled hard twice on Grigorenko when the safe choice was to send him back to junior both years.

    • anthj99 - Aug 28, 2014 at 7:35 PM

      Darcy was grasping for straws because he knew the house of cards was crashing around him.

      • bullwinkle88 - Aug 29, 2014 at 9:35 PM

        That’s B.S. Darcy didn’t handle him correctly, true. But it wasn’t because he was in trouble. The plan was to rebuild, just like Murray is continuing to do now.

      • anthj99 - Aug 30, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        Sure thing, Darcy Jr.

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