Today it was announced that the Sabres had signed their first round pick Mikhail Grigorenko to an entry level contact, meaning both of the Sabres 2012 first round picks have already signed with the team. The Sabres circumstances with the draft this season have been unlike any other recent draft, making this situation quite interesting.
First of all the Sabres very rarely sign their draft picks the year that they draft them. Even Tyler Myers played one more season in the WHL before he joined the big club. That being said, the Sabres haven’t drafted a forward this high since Thomas Vanek, and he wasn’t even able to play in the NHL due to the lockout.
Grigorenko is unlike most Sabres draft picks, he comes with a reputation and expectations that are quite unusual. Keep in mind that first year draft picks signing isn’t only rare for the Sabres, it is rare for the entire NHL. The fact that the Sabres have to first round picks signed already is incredibly rare.
It is important to note that Grigorenko cannot play in the AHL this season because he is a CHL affiliated player, therefore he could not play in the minors until he is 20. If he is going to play hockey professionally it will be for the Buffalo Sabres. Grigorenko is also a scorer, so he will really only be effective in a top two lines role. He isn’t a player you can have sitting on the 3rd or 4th line, it doesn’t fit his play. That could affect his chances of making the team, as he may not be ready just yet. The Sabres have signed him, but that doesn’t mean he will play the full season here. Buffalo can send him back down to the CHL until he has played 12 games in the NHL.
Girgensons is a different story, as he is not involved in the CHL. He can start the season in Rochester, which will likely be where he spends most of this season. At 18 he most likely does need more time to develop, and Ron Rolston will help him grow. He also plays a role that would allow him to fit on a bottom line, which is why I think right now he may be more fit for time with the Sabres. Its an interesting factor to consider.
With Hodgson and Ennis widely considered to be the top centers, it will be interesting to see what happens with the two rookies. For Grigorenko to make the team he most likely has to beat out one of the two, and Darcy Regier has said they will give him every opportunity. Girgensons could easily fit in a third line role if necessary, allowing a guy like Leino to stay on the wing. There’s a bit more flexibility there.
Whatever the case, the signings add a nice spark for training camp. Both players are worthy of the coverage and add an interesting dynamic for the 2012-2013 Sabres squad. Will they make a difference year one? Only time will tell. Does it show that the Sabres are doing things a tad differently than usual? Most definitely. Don’t forget last year’s first round pick Joel Armia is coming overseas this season too. The young guns are swinging, that’s for sure.