As expected, Mikhail Grigorenko signed an entry level contract with the Buffalo Sabres this past Wednesday. Grigorenko’s 3-year deal at $1,750,00 per year is just $150,000 more than Zemgus Girgensons’ contract which he signed late last week. Given that Grigorenko is an extremely talented forward who was slotted to be taken within the top three according to many draft rankings, it is expected that he will certainly be striving to make the 2012-2013 Buffalo Sabres roster.Grigorenko’s inconsistency throughout the past year caused concern for many scouts and teams, plaguing him as lazy and unmotivated. This idea contributed to his decline in the draft order to 12th, right into the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. It later surfaced that Grigorenko was diagnosed and battling mono during the playoffs, just after an ankle injury throughout the World Junior Championships. It would be hard to look at his performance throughout the past season and not take into account these factors.
At 6’3″ and 180 lbs., Grigorenko is a bigger center than the Sabres have been previously used to. He handles the puck extremely well and is also difficult to knock off the puck. Classified as a playmaker, he is an ideal candidate for what the Sabres desperately need in the center position.
Last season Grigorenko played with the Québec Remparts of the QMJHL. With 85 points in 59 games, he was 4th among the league with 1.44 points per game — just behind Yanni Gourde, Zach O’Brien, and Alex Belzile. In his 11 game post season, he managed 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) with only 4 penalty minutes.
It’s important to remember that if Grigorenko does not make the Sabres roster next season, he is ineligible to play in Rochester with the Americans. For him, it’s either make the roster or tear it up with the Québec Remparts for another season. This is different than Zemgus Girgensons who played in the USHL, as he will be eligible to play in the AHL, and most likely where he will end up next season.
For a moment, let’s be optimistic for a moment about Mikhail’s NHL possibility. How could he measure up to NHL competition? Though difficult to predict, Aaron does a fantastic job attempting to predict what Grigorenko could do in the NHL next season in this Die by the Blade article. He also takes a quick look at Zemgus Girgensons projections as well, and explains the math behind the prediction.
With the addition of Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons, the Sabres will be significantly larger down the middle once both of these players have solidified roster spots. Despite the signings of these two, fans should take a step back and not hold such high expectations for either player for the upcoming season.
Darcy Regier speaks to this effect after Grigorenko’s signing:
In Mikhail’s case, it will be driven by him, driven by training and exhibition games and a sense of where he fits and how he fits, and not just the opportunity, but we have a responsibility and an obligation to put him in a position to succeed – not just on the short-term, but the long-term as well.
With both players just 18 years young, they do have plenty of competition for the team next season and despite the gaps at center, it might not be wise to throw either into the NHL mix too early.