(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
When the Sabres took Mikhail Grigorenko with the 12th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Draft, the idea throughout the organization was that he was ready to play in the NHL this season.
On Monday, the mission to prove he’s ready begins.
Grigorenko will be a participant in the Sabres development camp this week, and is expected to be one of, if not, the most watched players of the week at a camp that will include Luke Adam, Cody Hodgson, Joel Armia, and Marcus Foligno among many others.
It wasn’t long ago that debate was stirring over whether Grigorenko could pass Nail Yakupov and be the first player off the board.
The Russian center has a lot of question marks surrounding him. Will he be able to handle the speed of the NHL? Will he be strong on the puck? Will he go full-force 100% of the time? The camp will be the first place that he’ll be able to begin to answer those questions.
The organization is hoping that Grigorenko will become their version of Evgeni Malkin, a player he’s been often compared to. What they don’t want is an Alexei Yashin type of player that never lives up to his potential.
“I want to prove them [Sabres] right,” he said at the draft in June.
Grigorenko has been in Buffalo since the draft working out and getting ready for his first chance to impress his new coaches on the ice.
The 6’3″ center was a handful in the QMJHL last season, scoring 85 points in 59 games for the Quebec Ramparts. He drew a lot of scrutiny for his abysmal playoff performance until it was discovered that he was playing while suffering from “Mono”.
He has a lot of work to do still if he wants to start the season in Buffalo. He needs to prove that he can take the body and use his size to his advantage. If there was one major question mark on his game, it’s not being able to use his size to his advantage. He often would get bumped off the puck by players smaller than him in stature. It’s a problem that should be easily correctable by just hitting the gym more.
Offensive prospects like Grigorenko don’t come along too often, and teams drafting in the top 10, according to him, will regret not taking him when he develops. And it all begins on Monday morning