Mikhail Grigorenko may be the perfect example of why you can never judge a prospect too early. Many in the Buffalo Sabres media were ready to write the 2012 first round draft pick off after less than 1 full season in the NHL. However, as the Sabres opened their development camp, Mikhail Grigorenko seems like a brand new prospect.
To be honest, Grigorenko didn’t make life for himself the easiest while with the Buffalo Sabres. He had trouble adapting to the NHL right away, which was too be expected but decided to screw around when the Sabres sent him down to junior last season. He got upset, threatened to and did not report right away and he released a statement stating that he and his agent were exploring the best option for him going forward leading many to fear he would head to the KHL.
While the Sabres aren’t likely going to be commended for their job of handling Grigorenko, both parties fell victim to the NHL’s agreement with the CHL which forbid Grigorenko from playing in the AHL; the place he so badly needed to be. With Grigorenko failing to make any impact with the Sabres in the NHL and carrying what seemed like a nasty attitude of unwarranted self entitlement, things seemed gloomy at the end of last season for Grigorenko and his NHL career with the Sabres. Some even jumped to speculation that Tim Murray had seen enough and was ready to pull the trigger on the young prospect.
However, it was far too soon to give up hope and Mikhail Grigorenko is proving that at Sabres development camp. He looks like a brand new player out there and talks like a young player who is ready to make his mark.
He appears to have put on some muscle, getting bigger and tougher to play against. He battled hard against other teammates and wasn’t afraid to mix it up or throw the body like he had been in the past. His shot has become even more accurate and deadly, leaving goaltenders stuck in place as he fires home the puck. All around he’s looked like a better player on the ice, who might finally be ready to make the jump to the NHL.
Most importantly however, the once 18 year-old prospect appears to have grown up as he entered camp with a whole new mindset and apparent maturity. When speaking to the media he blamed himself for his past struggles. Not the Sabres, the QMJHL or the NHL, himself as a player;
“From past experience I realized it’s probably no one’s fault but mine that I didn’t go into the NHL. 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” ~ Mikhail Grigorenko.
While the youngster has struggled during his time with the Sabres, it’s been a different story with the Quebec Remparts where he’s been lighting up the QMJHL. In 56 games with the Remparts he scored 45 goals for 93 points playing against players his own age. It’s clear that there is nothing left for him in the QMJHL and it appears his time in junior helped him mature.
Next season Mikhail Grigorenko will either join the Sabres right out of camp for the 3rd straight season or finally lace up for the Rochester Americans in the AHL. Many believe that some AHL time will serve him well as it did Zemgus Girgensons who has now become a stud for the Sabres.
He’s gone through a lot with the Buffalo Sabres, listening to numerous different coaches and playing for numerous teams, but the bottom line is his skill. Now that his attitude appears to be back on track, Grigorenko can let his skills do all the talking as he hopes to stick with the Sabres after training camp for the third season in a row and this time without the fear of going back to the QMJHL.
It appears the Buffalo Sabres have a brand new Mikhail Grigorenko. He’s still the same kid with elite level talent, but now he’s ready to show everyone why he was drafted 12th overall in 2012 and work for a roster spot. Sounds like Ted Nolan might warm up to the kid.