Taken with the 12th overall pick of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Mikhail Grigorenko’s story currently reads like a cautionary tale. Buffalo deviated from the norm by allowing Grigorenko to stay with the pro squad beyond the nine-game trial period in his rookie campaign even though he ultimately wasn’t ready to stick around for the full season.
The result is that Buffalo burned the first campaign of Grigorenko’s entry-level contract back in 2012-13, so now the 20-year-old is set to become a restricted free agent even though he’s only played in 61 NHL games and hasn’t proven that he’ll develop into a regular with the Sabres. Keep in mind we’re less than a month removed from Sabres head coach Ted Nolan bashing his “lackadaisical” play.
Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy got a chance to see Grigorenko during his squad’s 5-3 victory over Buffalo on Saturday. Roy knows Grigorenko from a better time, when he was overseeing the promising forward’s development with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, and he remains confident that Grigorenko will find his way with Buffalo.
“I think he’s learning,” Roy told the Buffalo News. “Some players develop faster than others. I’m sure the expectations are very high for him in Buffalo, but Grigo has a lot of skills, has a lot of hockey sense.”
Once the season is over, there may be speculation about the possibility of Grigorenko signing with a KHL club, but for now he seems to be happy in Buffalo. He knows that the Sabres ultimately want him to succeed and while Nolan has been harsh at times, Grigorenko sees the good in that.
“Teddy, he thinks being hard on me is only going to help me,” Girgorenko said. “Since I’ve been back, I’ve probably been playing the best I’ve played this year. I guess it works, so I’m glad he was hard on me.”