Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Why Mikhail Grigorenko Should Stay In The QMJHL

Now that the NHL lockout appears to be behind us the next matter of business for teams is training camp. Since there will only be a 48 game season this years training camps will be shorter and will feature less players than normal. The biggest question for Buffalo Sabres fans was whether or not 2012 first round pick Mikhail Grigorenko would be in attendance at training camp- The Sabres announced on Monday that Grigorenko will be in training camp starting Saturday.

In all likelihood the Sabres will keep Grigorenko to the end of camp and likely into his 9 game tryout before they make their final decision. There’s no question the young Russian has the potential to jump into the NHL, but is now really the right time?

Grigorenko was selected by the Buffalo Sabres 12th overall in the 2012 NHL draft, arguably the steal of

the draft after he fell outside of the top 10 and right into Darcy Regier’s lap. He has the potential to be a franchise player and first line centre in the NHL, and has been lighting it up in the QMJHL all season. Playing for the Quebec Remparts during the lockout Grigorenko has been one of their best players racking up 29 goals and 50 points in just 30 games- 10 less that many of his opposition and teammates. He is coming off a phenomenal breakout year in 2011-2012 that saw him record 85 points in just 49 games and is looking to match his totals from last season with the Remparts.

In addition to his stellar play in the “Q”, he is coming off a very successful World Junior Tournament with the Russian squad that defeated Canada to win bronze. During the tournament Grigorenko was able to step out of the shadows of fellow 2012 draftee Nail Yakupov who had a very quiet tournament and ultimately became one of the leaders after scoring 2 goals and adding 4 assists- including the tying and winning goals against Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

Everything about this kid screams bright future and NHL star, so why shouldn’t he join the Sabres in their 48 game season?
First of all, because it’s a shortened NHL season there is no time to give up games. Teams need to be battling out of the gate right from day one, there is no chance to give young rookies an opportunity to adapt to the fast pace NHL game. In fact I would be very surprised to see many rookies play this season. The competition right from the first puck drop will be to great for the majority of rookies trying to get their feet wet, there will be no easy games to start off the season. How will a 48 game season help Grigorenko who hasn’t played a game in the NHL yet, he’ll likely just become frustrated and discouraged.

The second reason ties into the first- Remember how Lindy Ruff treats young players? Not very well. Right now Grigorenko can be penciled in as the 3rd line centre behind Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis. Grigorenko doesn’t belong on the 3rd line and should be in the top 6 forwards, but if Ruff doesn’t like what he sees he will move him to the 4th line or onto the wing. It’s too early in his career for him to be moved around without a fair shake at his proper position. Wouldn’t it be better to have him play in the “Q” where he dominates as the first line centre, can be a leader and make a playoff run with the Remparts instead of riding the bench with the Sabres?

Lastly, and I know this doesn’t mean much for most, but Grigorenko needs to stay in the “Q” because the Remparts need him. He is leading the Remparts in scoring and is easily their best player, if he goes so do the Remparts chances of winning the Memorial Cup.

“I’m still hoping he’ll be back with the Remparts to finish the season. His loss would obviously be devastating, because we count on him a lot.” Quebec Remparts head coach Patrick Roy.

Grigorenko has played 30 games with the Remparts, he’s invested his time and efforts into the success of the team. His teammates, coaches and fans are all counting on him to lead the team to victory, it would be terriable for their star player to abandon them half way through their season. The experience he will gain from finishing the year with the Remparts and making a solid run through the playoffs will only benefit him for when he is truly ready to make the jump to the NHL.

The development of players in hockey is like a chess game, one wrong move and the game is over. Calling up a player too quickly can ruin a layer and ultimately hurts their development, many are over their heads and just can’t adjust. The Buffalo Sabres can not afford to mess around with Grigorenko’s development. 


Tags: Buffalo Sabres Mikhail Grigorenko NHL

  • wolfdoctor

    48 games over such a short period of time would be too much to ask for an 18 year old. He should stay in Quebec.

    • Timothy Redinger

      Ron – I don’t know – the kid seems to have outgrown the Q – looks like he will be in training camp with the boys, so lets see how he does against a few veterans. The real test will be in his first six games – hopefully those games are against some of the better teams in the East, so we can see how ready he is.
      If he really is a beast in the Q – lets hope that transfers to the NHL.

  • Jack Walters

    Quebec traded fellow Russian Nikita Kucherov in November as a direct result of Grigorenko’s dominance in the “Q.” For the Sabres to pull Grigorenko now would almost be unfair to the Remparts, as they simply wouldn’t have the firepower to contend for a Memorial Cup without him. Unfortunately for Quebec, that’s a risk they knew existed and chose to take. The kid has earned his shot in the NHL and obviously, being Buffalo Sabres’ property, they have the ultimate say on where he plays. Darcy has already said he has no reserves about “burning” a year of Grigorenko’s entry-level deal in a shortened 48-game season, so Mikhail’s play in training camp and perhaps the first five games of the regular season will be the deciding factor.

    Still, you wonder if it’s the proper course of action. There is always concern about bringing players up too early, and right now Grigorenko is poised for a run at the QMJHL scoring lead and potentially the Memorial Cup. After a disappointing performance in the tournament last year, you can bet Grigorenko has his eye on redemption should he wind up back in Quebec.

    I think there’s a strong argument for keeping him in Quebec. While yes, he would continue his development in a league he has probably outgrown, it would also give the Sabres a prolonged look at his performance in a leadership role as well as under pressure in the playoffs. It also wouldn’t hurt to build a good relationship with Remparts’ coach and Rochester forward Frederick Roy’s father, Patrick Roy.