For better or worse, Mikhail Grigorenko is stuck with the Sabres. Photo: Cliff Welch, Icon SMI
To say the least, Mikhail Grigerenko of the Buffalo Sabres has had a tough time fitting in at the NHL level. The No. 12 pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, “Grigs” was a highly touted prospect who was sent right into NHL action as an 18-year-old rookie. Some players are ready for that kind of work at that age; some are not.
Grigorenko struggled his rookie year, posting one goal and five total points in 25 games. So far this year, he has three points (two goals, one assist) in 15 games, and has looked lost on the ice many nights. Which is fine; he’s only a teenager, and he needs some more seasoning at the junior/minor level before he’s ready to be the player the Sabres envision him becoming.
So, when Ted Nolan was brought in as the Sabres’ new coach, one of the first things he did was scratch Grigorenko from the lineup, then attempt to send him down to the Rochester Americans (Buffalo’s American Hockey League affiliate), for a conditioning assignment.
Not so fast, said the NHL. Since Grigorenko still has Canadian Hockey League (CHL) eligibility, the league ruled it would be a violation of the CHL/NHL agreement on prospects for Grigorenko to play in the AHL. Grigorenko played for the Quebec Ramparts who play under the CHL umbrella in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Due to the rules of the agreement, CHL eligibility takes precedence over AHL assignments under the player reaches the age of 20, or has played four full CHL seasons before entering the AHL. At 19 years of age with only two CHL seasons under his belt, Grigorenko was still bound to his CHL duties if he wasn’t in the NHL.
So, Grigorenko has to stay with the Sabres. Of course, the obvious first thought is “Well, if he can’t play in the AHL, and he’s not ready for the NHL, why not send him back to the QMJHL?” Well, because Grigorenko isn’t going to get any better there. He was already head-and-shoulders above much of the competition he faced as a member of the Ramparts, and he’s not going to improve his game as a “man-among-boys”, so to speak.
So….Grigs is stuck in hockey limbo- just another blow to the Sabres’ woeful season so far. They’re at the bottom of the NHL standings, their top prospect isn’t ready for prime time, yet they can’t even assign him to the minor leagues for a little seasoning. Yikes.
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