Nov 2, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (55) against the Anaheim Ducks at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Where Will The Younger Buffalo Sabres Go?

With the conclusion of the 2014 IIHF World Juniors, the Buffalo Sabres now deal with three players, all who are either eligible for returning to their prospective junior teams or down to the AHL.

Nov 12, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko (25) during the game against the Los Angeles Kings at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo sent three players to Malmo this past December, all of which medaled. Mikhail Grigorenko, Buffalos first pick in 2012, lead all of Russia with 5 goals and 3 assists with a plus-6 rating. He was also key in Russia’s 2-1 victory against Canada in the bronze medal game, scoring the first goal for Russia. However, his leading of the team wasn’t all that it is cracked up to be, with his consistency, there was also lacking. He was good, better than what he has been like in Buffalo, but he wasn’t great.

The surge by Grigorenko was exactly what Buffalo was hoping for. Hoping for Grigorenko to bloom on a stage that he can excel in. I’m sure that both Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine were paying close attention to the center, hoping that they could decide what to do with the 19-year old when he returns state-side.

Today, news circulating Grigorenko ranged from the Quebec Remparts not trading his rights at the QMJHL to Ted Nolan saying that when Grigorenko lands in Buffalo, they will all meet to decide what the organizations next step will be with Grigorenko.

Here is my thought…

It seems that the bridge between Quebec and Buffalo is a very shaky one at best. Yes, it is a good place to be to continue to prosper, but it is no where near the same caliber as the NHL. The best place for him, in my opinion, would be on the American’s roster. Unfortunately, as we all know, he is too young. Nineteen-year olds dream of being 21 for obvious reasons, if I were Grigorenko, I would just dream of being 20.

However, our hopes of him being able to take some time in the AHL and develop a stronger system of play will have to be put on ice for the rest of the season, due to him breaking the two decade barrier in the middle of May.

Where do I see Grigo? Honestly I can’t even tell. I want to say that he learned a thing or two in Malmo and is ready to transfer that back in Buffalo, but I also want to say that Buffalo doesn’t want to risk taking a spot from anyone on a hope that he will produce. For a team with a mindset to focus on getting wins, putting him in that spot is a bigger risk than reward. I will say this, I want him in Buffalo, but I think he needs a little time to develop more. He isn’t even 20 yet, he hasn’t had much to go with, and he is trying to make a jump from a junior league to the NHL, a hard task for most to accomplish.

Last year is the final year for his entry level deal, and we haven’t even seen what he is like in the AHL, that last step before the big league. He isn’t costing us much, so why don’t we see how much he grows until then.

My final thought, he will play some with Buffalo for the next week on a “tryout-like” span, and if he plays the same throughout that, he’ll be well on his way back to Quebec.

Oct 23, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov (61) celebrates his fist NHL goal against the Boston Bruins during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Nikita Zadorov had an ideal outing in Sweden, nothing less than great, registering 4 goals and one assist in seven games with the Russians. Garnering all-star medals, along with Rasmus Ristolainen, as one of the best defensemen in the tournament, he was first in goal scoring and second in point scoring defensemen. However, he will have more time to wait than Grigorenko, only turning 19 this April, preventing him from playing in the AHL just yet.

I will give him a break though. He was just recently drafted, he is trying to make a name for himself in his first year to get to the NHL. He has proved that he is capable of adjusting to the pace of the league, playing in 7 games already and while only scoring one goal, he is still trying to get there. His last game was almost two months ago, before Nolan took over. Before Nolan took a more veteran-oriented outlook on his team.

He still has a long way before he is a mainstay on the blue-line, so I think that he will see more time in London this year rather than dress in the blue and gold. Will he see more time in Buffalo before the end of this season? Probably not. Honestly, Buffalo has been doing something right as of late, with them taking teams to extra periods and earning points more often, it is highly unlikely that they will risk that by deconstructing the current lineup. If injuries plague them, maybe he will see a bit of time, but not much.

The gold-medal winner of the trio, Rasmus Ristolainen, definitely earned some brownie points, scoring three goals for Finland in the tourney, also the game-winner in overtime to seal the gold-medal victory.

The only player of the three able to play right up the I-190 in Rochester, Ristolainen has most likely played out his time in Buffalo this season. The Sabres first overall pick this past summer has the benefit of being able to play in the AHL and bounce back and forth.

The rookie blueliner will most likely play out in Rochester, maybe come up once or twice more and then try to make the cut by next season. Playing in Rochester is better for any rookie, and “Risto” will benefit from more playing time down there than up here.

Out of all three of them, I see Ristolainen as the most likely to move ahead, he has had a good place in Rochester to grow and has played a decent amount of time in Buffalo with 19 games, with one goal in those games. The other two just need a bit more time, they can excel all they want in the juniors, but need to see some faster pace in the AHL and then worry about the NHL.

Of course, I can only speculate. We will hear more about the fate of the young guys once they are back in Buffalo. Hopefully we have a plan of attack to deal with them. Hopefully.

Where do you think they will end up? Do you think that Grigorenko’s time in Malmo was a kick good enough to bring him out of his rut? Comment or email us at [email protected]!

Tags: Buffalo Sabres

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