Ever since Mikhail Grigorenko was drafted 12th overall by the Buffalo Sabres, the pressure was on for the 18 year old to make the instant jump to the NHL. After an extremely impressive rookie season in the QMJHL, where Grigorenko registered 85 points in 59 games, many projected him to be an early pick come the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Just before draft time, questions were being asked about Grigorenko’s skating ability and his overall health after suffering a concussion. This along with the “Russian Factor” was why Grigorenko dropped all the way down to the 12th spot, where he was selected by the Buffalo Sabres. After having a disappointing rookie season in the NHL, Grigorenko will look to bounce back, and have a much improved and successful second season.
One aspect going in Grigorenko’s favor will be that he will get to experience a full training camp. Due to the lockout last season, Grigorenko only had a little over a week to practice with the club. This obviously put Grigorenko at a disadvantage due to the fact that he never had time to gel and develop chemistry with his teammates. It was also no help that there were no preseason games to be played, so Grigorenko never had the opportunity to get his feet wet in the NHL and get a feel for the game at a high level. With a full training camp, I expect Grigorenko will be much more comfortable playing up in the NHL.
Another factor that hurt Grigorenko in his rookie season was the uncertainty of his whole situation. When training camp started, it was yet to be seen whether Grigorenko would make the big club. It was reported that he impressed throughout training camp and should find himself on the final roster. When it was made official, the bar was set high and the pressure was on Grigorenko to produce right off the bat. His jersey quickly sold out at the First Niagra Centre, as fans expected the 18 year old to be a star. When Grigorenko struggled off the get go, there were rumours that the Russian forward would be sent down to his junior team to finish the season. As Grigorenko continued to struggle, he would be sent back down to juniors, only to finish the last few games with the Sabres. Heading into the 2013 season, Grigorenko does not have to worry about his status in the NHL, as he will be a full time player with the Sabres. With Grigorenko not having to look over his shoulder to begin the season, expect him to have a solid start to the season.
The final thing that didn’t help Grigorenko during his rookie season was Lindy Ruff. The long time Sabres head coach does not have the best track record when it comes to developing young talent. Grigorenko found himself buried in Ruff’s doghouse quite often, and this was obviously a confidence drainer. With Ron Rolston behind the bench for the Sabres, the skies the limit for the 19 year old. Rolston loves to develop young players and I expect Grigorenko to thrive under Rolston in the coming years. With so much young talent that the Sabres have and with Rolston behind the bench, I anticipate the Sabres will be good…scary good, in the years to come.
One of the biggest questions heading into training camp is whether or not Mikhail Grigorenko will bounce back with the Sabres. Although there may be many doubters, I believe that he will be just fine. With a full training camp, a new head coach and less pressure headed into the season, a fresh start is just what Mikhail Grigorenko needs to revamp his young and promising career.