Mikhail Grigorenko

Russian team accused of partying during World Juniors, Sabres’ Grigorenko responds


Mikhail Grigorenko has responded to accusations that Russia’s World Junior team has been enjoying too much of the nightlife.

Grigorenko angrily denied claims made by Alex Semak — the former NHLer, now coaching Russian junior club Tolpar — that members of the team were out late at nightclubs and restaurants throughout the tournament.

“It’s sad to read such nastiness in the media,” Grigorenko told Russian media outlet Sportbox.ru. “Nail Yakupov is bad. Mikhail Grigorenko is bad. The hockey is bad. I don’t know what game he was watching.

“All the guys are giving everything on the ice and can’t be blamed.”

Russia’s had an inconsistent tourney, deemed a disappointment by many given 1) it’s talent-laden roster and 2) the fact it was the host nation.

The Russians blew out Germany and defeated a American team that will play for gold on Saturday, but needed shootouts to beat Slovakia and Switzerland. They also lost 4-1 to Canada in their final game of the group stage.

In the semifinal against Sweden, Russia started sluggishly, getting out-shot 14-2 in the opening frame while falling behind 2-0. The Russians rallied to tie and send it to a shootout, only to see the Swedes win on a Sebastian Collberg goal.

As for Semak — well, he wasn’t done with the accusations.

He went on to suggest Grigorenko was two years older than the rest of the field at the WJC (see here and here). Whispers about the legitimacy of Grigorenko’s age have come up before, only to be quashed after a thorough investigation.

As expected, the Sabres prospect didn’t take too kindly to those accusations either.

“Who is he? A coach? Of what club? Tolpar? Never heard of such,” he said of Semak. “It seems that the man just didn’t get the job he wanted and he’s now happy that we’ve lost.”


Uh oh, people are already calling Yakupov a “prima donna”

Yakupov keeps Canada-Russia analysis tame after controversial remarks

Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.

Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.

The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.

“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.

The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.

Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.