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The next pair are guys the Colorado Avalanche almost, but not quite, scored with. Mikhail Grigorenko and Peter Mueller were slightly more successful with their new team. But not a lot.
Both were top notch prospects in their draft years, and both carried some excitement when they came to Colorado. Neither are in the NHL anymore.
Mikhail Grigorenko tore up the QMJHL, putting up impressive point totals on the way to winning the Mike Bossy Trophy in 2012 as the league’s best prospect. Despite his scoring prowess, questions about his competitiveness dogged him, and he slipped to 12th in the draft, where the Buffalo Sabres scooped him up.
His time is Buffalo was… strange. He bounced between the NHL, AHL and the QMJHL for three seasons, never really breaking through.
The Sabres seemed poised to give up on him. His former coach wasn’t. Like Caron and Gormley, Grigorenko was a tall player from the QMJHL, so Patrick Roy and the Avalanche thought he was worth a shot.
Grigorenko, of course, was part of the package for Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn. He had some incredible moments, but the same doubts regarding his commitment carried over into his pro career. After putting up 27 and 23 points in his first full NHL seasons, the Colorado Avalanche made the questionable move not to qualify him.
He’s now signed to play in the KHL for the next two seasons.
Peter Mueller may actually be the gold standard for Colorado’s reclamation projects. He was a better than point/game player in the USNTDP and the WHL for a combined three seasons before bursting onto the scene with a 54 point rookie campaign with the Phoenix Coyotes.
That’s better than anyone on the Colorado Avalanche managed last season.
His production tailed off in his second season, then plummeted in his third year, down to 17 points in 54 games. The Avalanche saw something in him though, and pulled the classic ‘change of scenery’ gambit. Mueller came over with Kevin Porter for Wojtek Wolski in March 2010.
And he lit it up, to the tune of 20 points in 15 games. It looked like the Avalanche found a top notch right winger to complement their stable of young centres.
Then this happened.
How prescient the broadcaster’s words turned out to be. Rob Blake destroyed Peter Mueller.
He missed the rest of that season, all of 2010-11 and most of 2011-12 with concussion symptoms. Not surprisingly, he never re-captured his form, and was released from the Avalanche in 2012.
Mueller tried to make a go of it with the Florida Panthers, but he couldn’t stop from washing out of the league. He still plays though, scoring at a pretty good rate in the AHL last season.
While this move didn’t pan out for the Avalanche, the much more important story is Mueller’s. Yes, it’s unfortunate Colorado didn’t get their player, but that’s nothing compared to the kid’s lifelong dream ending because he didn’t check his shoulder one time.
Grigorenko and Mueller are the epitome of ‘what could have been’ for the Avalanche. There was so much talent and potential there, but, for very different reasons, it just never worked out for them in Colorado.
They scored a combined 86 points for the Avalanche, but just weren’t able to keep their grip on an NHL roster.