Colorado Avalanche: Mikhail Grigorenko Stops by for His Grade


Colorado Avalanche center — and key piece in the Ryan O’Reilly trade — Mikhail Grigorenko has had an up and down season, but the potential is there.

Round 3 begins with the ding of my hands to the keyboard, signaling Grigorenko’s turn in the ring, and it could get ugly. Grigs came over from the Buffalo Sabres as we sent them a very good center in O’Reilly.

Surely Nikita Zadorov was the main piece in the trade, but if Grigorenko pans out under Patrick Roy’s tutelage, then the Colorado Avalanche could certainly end up winning this trade in the long run.

Back in July — when I was first beginning as an MHS writer — I gave preseason homework to Mikhail Grigorenko. Now it’s time for his midseason grade, and to see how well he’s payed attention to his preseason homework.

The Set Up!

Grigorenko has had some ups and downs this season, but he has at least registered a goal:

That’s a pretty similar goal to his first every NHL goal:

Same spot essentially, one with the forehand, and one with the backhand. What player doesn’t like shooting from right in front of the net?

However, forever whatever reason, his ability at the junior level, and even at the AHL level, has yet to click in an NHL tilt. Next game he plays will be the 100th of his career, and he currently sits at 25 points with a paltry 7 goals. Grigs is supposed to be a sniper.

More From Mile High Sticking: Matt Duchene’s Midseason Grade

So, back in July I also wrote an article about what Avs fans can expect from Mikhail Grigorenko, unfortunately that question is still unanswered because Grigs has yet to prove that he is invaluable and worth an extension.

Mikhail Grigorenko at His Worst

Fortunately for the sake of the Colorado Avalanche, Mikhail Grigorenko plays a very strong defensive game. He rarely gets out of position, he back-checks, and he steals pucks.

He is a +5 in the turnover department with a turnover ratio of 2.00. He is also a +9 overall for the season, so he’s not on the ice for that many goals against. In other words, he is not really a liability when he’s on the ice, but he’s not contributing enough either.

The worst of Grigs stems from his lack of offensive power because he’s not scoring at the pace that people expect of him. However, I will throw a bit of optimism to the page, even if it’s not the sort you’re looking for.

Jack Skille was drafted #7 overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005 and he’s never scored more than 17 points in an NHL season. Yet, he just received an A+ from me on his midseason report card because he plays his role well and provides depth scoring.

Hopefully that is not the path for Mikhail Grigorenko — who was drafted #12 overall– but if that ends up being the case then his defensive skill will certainly serve him well for that role.

However, I’m not giving up on Grigorenko quite yet, and I don’t think that Patrick Roy should either.

Mikhail Grigorenko at His Best

Mikhail Grigorenko is obviously at his best when he’s putting up points while also contributing with a stifling defensive game. He has the potential to be a great two-way player, but he’ll need to find his offensive game if he wants to become that type of player.

There have been some flashes of it this year; instead of scoring goals, Mikhail Grigorenko has been making some excellent passes:

I love watching that play because that goal by Nathan MacKinnon is a beaut; however, the pass by Grigs is world class as well and certainly showcases his nice hands. Here’s another great play by Grigs earlier in the same game:

He certainly gets a little lucky on that play; nonetheless, he pushes the face-off dot hard from the wing and is able to deflect the puck straight to MacK’s stick for an easy finish.

Mikhail Grigorenko had a hand in all 3 goals of that first period, scoring his only goal in an Avalanche sweater and adding the primary helper on both MacKinnon goals.

Watching those videos, it is easy to see the potential that Grigorenko has, unfortunately he’s been unable to play consistently at that level.

Avalanche fans are waiting on the edge of their seats to see Grigs produce like that on a consistent basis, but he’s yet to find footing at this point.

Mikhail Grigorenko’s Midseason Grade

He’s going to get a C from me because he’s been that, just average. If it weren’t for his defensive game he’d be below average most definitely, but I respect his defensive game, and I’m optimistic about the offensive flashes he’s shown this season.

Just look at this play by Grigorenko, he does everything right:

As Grigorenko goes to pinch down the wall and put pressure on the Boston defensemen, he realizes that Ben Street can provide that pressure, and he can instead take away the pass up the boards. So his first good move on this play is his positioning.

He’s also very active with his stick in the passing lane, making sure that there is no easy pass into the middle of the ice — where a Boston player is waiting — while also taking away the pass up the boards by holding tight to board pressure.

Next, he realizes that he’s taken away the pass to the middle with his positioning, and Street’s forecheck, so he commits to the pass off the boards and is ready to intercept when the puck comes straight to his stick.

More from Mile High Sticking

Finally, Grigorenko recognizes the room he has in front of him, and takes it to the net which makes both Boston defensemen crash to cover him.

When Grigorenko makes a beautiful pass to Duchene — who’s streaking down the slot — both Boston defensemen are focused on him which makes an easy one-timer finish for Matt Duchene.

That play above is the epitome of how good things can get for Mikhail Grigorenko, so hopefully they continue improving for him over the second half of the season.

New Year’s Resolution

This is totally out of his control, but Grigs needs more ice time. From November 12th to November 23rd (six games) Grigorenko had 7 of his 11 total points for the season.

He averaged 15:48 minutes of ice time, with a season high of 20:14 against the Maple Leafs when the Avs lost 5-1, yet Grigorenko was an even in the +/- department for that game.

He’s shown a lot of potential this season, but those six games should be recognized for what they provided Grigorenko, an opportunity to showcase his ability with a good amount of ice time.

Without those seven games, Grigorenko would be averaging 10:49 minutes a game, and he’s shown that he is more productive when given increased ice time with better players.

Other than increased time on the ice, Grigorenko would also benefit from an increase in his hockey confidence because he’s got the skill to make any defensemen feel silly, but he just doesn’t seem to trust his hands.

He’s at least an above-average skater, and he’s made some really strong moves around players this season, but he doesn’t employ his stick-handling and skating to his offensive advantage enough.

More from Avalanche News

I want so much more from Mikhail Grigorenko, and I guarantee you that I’m not the only one. Along with Colorado Avalanche management, I’m sure he wants more from himself.

If he had more ice time, he could probably provide more, but he won’t get more ice time unless he proves that he can provide scoring in a depth role.

As much as the 4th line isn’t giving him the chance to showcase his skill set, it’s also the only place for Grigs at this point because he hasn’t proven that he deserves to play higher up in the line-up.

I’m optimistic that Grigs will figure this out, and become a 40-50 point scorer with the potential for 60, but he may just need a little more time. Regardless, he certainly needs confidence, and Patty Roy is the best coach for him to be with for that confidence.

Back to poetry. Once again — at the time of writing this — there was no poetry submitted to the comment section so welcome to the atrocity of my poetry again. I’m committed to the hockey holiday poems, even if I don’t get any from my readership.

I miss Hockey already, like a mother misses her college child,

Luckily it’s not the dog days of summer, and the absence is mild,

Soon enough, Colorado Avalanche hockey will be played outdoors, a joy,

My excitement for old rivalries and pond hockey I can’t contain, oh boy, 

So, as much as I love watching this sport,

My writing for this poem will be short

— Ross Sellers

Next: Jack Skille's Midseason Grade

Tomorrow, I’ll add Tyson Barrie to the list of players that need a consultation going into the second half of the season.

Tyson Barrie needs to do more this season, and I’ll take a look at what he can improve, and what he’s done well, so stop by for another round of the midseason grades.

What do you think Avs fans? What grade would you have given Mikhail Grigorenko? If you had some New Year’s resolutions for him, what would they be? Let us know in the comment section!