Mikhail Grigorenko: What can we expect?


Mikhail Grigorenko is one of the newest addition to an overhauled Colorado Avalanche roster. The Russian center has yet to play a full season in the NHL, but Avs Nation already dreams about him being the new star player in the top six. And he should be if he is worth giving up Ryan O’Reilly, right? So what can we really expect?

Coach Patrick Roy and GM Joe Sakic wanted the team to get bigger, which is also why the entire 2015 draft class stands 6-foot-1 at the least. Grigorenko fits right in that scheme as well, as he is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward. He spent the 2011-12 season and part of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 campaigns playing for the QMJHL’s Québec Remparts under coach Roy, so he is a familiar face to his coach.

The 2o12 13th overall pick was rushed into the NHL, making the jump right in his draft year. However, he got sent back to Québec, after recording five points in 25 games. Back in junior, he had another outstanding season, scoring 30 goals and adding 24 assists in 33 games. After the QMJHL playoffs, he rejoined the pros, playing two playoff games for the AHL’s Rochester Americans, where he went scoreless.

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Basically the exact same thing happened again the following season, so let’s skip ahead to the 2014-15 campaign. This time around, Grigorenko spent most of the season with Rochester, recording 36 points in 43 games. Furthermore, he spent another 25 games in the NHL, recording three goals and three assists. Enough stat summary — what will he bring to the Avalanche next season?

And that is the big question. Mikhail Grigorenko is Russian and has played with the thought to return to his native country if he doesn’t play in the NHL. But since he is waiver-eligible by now, he can be expected to play for the Avalanche if he signs a new contract. He is likely seeking a well-paid one-way contract after the Sabres burnt at least a year of his entry-level deal, but that should not be unreasonable for a player with his potential.

Then were would he fit in the lineup? That part mostly depends on how well he does in training camp, who he has good chemistry with and most importantly how hard he works for a roster spot.

The top six is mostly set, although changes are very well possible. Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Jarome Iginla are the only players that will most certainly play on the first or second line. Carl Soderberg, Nathan MacKinnon and Alex Tanguay are the favorites to complete that group, if Roy wants to go with a top-heavy lineup.

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However, if he decides to balance the lineup a little bit more, it is well possible that at least one of Soderberg, MacKinnon and Tanguay gets pushed down to the second line. That would allow someone else, e.g. Grigorenko or Mikko Rantanen, to join the top six.

If not, though, Grigorenko would probably look good on a skilled third line as well. There he could develop his game with a fair amount of ice time, while not being rushed into too much responsibility. The only lock on the third line is likely Blake Comeau, with John Mitchell, Dennis Everberg and others being possible line mates as well.

That does not mean, that he is a lock on either one of those three lines, though. If he doesn’t deliver in training camp, he could also find himself on the fourth line with guys like Cody McLeod and Marc-Andre Cliche, or even completely out of the lineup.

Time will have to tell here. Mikhail Grigorenko has a lot of potential. He could become a good first-line center one day, but he has a long way to go until then. It is up to coach Roy to make the best of it, without rushing him like the Sabres did. For the upcoming season, Grigorenko could start low on the depth chart and work his way up — the speed in which he does so is up to him.

Where would you like to see Grigorenko slot in for next season? Let us know in the comment section!

Next: Get to know Carl Soderberg

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