RP – Original Story by: Mark Zwolinski
BUFFALO—The Buffalo Sabres ended overwhelming speculation Tuesday morning when they confirmed the club would be keeping teenager Mikhail Grigorenko at the NHL level.
“Two things, really, that went into the decision … its his development in conjunction to his ability to help us win hockey games,” GM Darcy Regier said Tuesday at the Sabres morning skate in advance of their tilt with the Leafs Tuesday night.
In deciding to keep the 18-year-old on the roster, Regier also triggered the first year in Grigorenko’s entry-level contract. The Sabres GM admitted that was a concern, given the abbreviated, 48-game season.
Regier added that the decision would have been different had the season started in September.
“It weighed a lot in the decision,” Regier said.
“He goes to junior if the decision is made in September. His game has come a long way since then. When a player plays well in the world juniors, it benefits his confidence. We got three or four extra months of development with him that way.”
Grigorenko becomes the sixth teenager to remain in the NHL this season. There remains a school of thought against keeping teens at the NHL level, but Regier feels the graduate of the Quebec Ramparts program of the QMJHL will benefit from Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.
“One of the things Lindy and I asked him when we told him (Tuesday morning) is does he understand the expression ‘never arrive,’” Regier said of Grigorenko, who has yet to record a point in five games.
“You never arrive as a player, it’s always about hard work and never about complacency. To the extent he’s willing to work, he will have a great future ahead of him in this game.”
A beaming Grigorenko met the media in the Sabres’ dressing room, but not before a special welcome from his teammates.
During the morning skate, Sabres players gave the teen a friendly “face wash” with their gloves.
“I just want to work hard and show everyone that they made the right decision,” Grigorenko said.
“It was good for me to see how my teammates reacted, they showed they are happy to have me on the team and that made me feel good.”
Grigorenko joins a very young Sabres corps at centre that includes 23-year-old Tyler Ennis and 22-year-old Cody Hodgson.
The Sabres’ decision also covered the club’s need for depth at centre. Buffalo remains stingy in goals against, having given up just one goal in the first period through five games. But the club’s faceoff performance is a concern.
“He’s earned his stay,” Ruff said. “We think he’s going to help us in a lot of areas.”