BUFFALO, N.Y. – Mikhail Grigorenko is staying with the Buffalo Sabres.
General manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff gave the 18-year-old center the good news Tuesday morning. Following a five-game tryout, the Sabres could have returned Grigorenko to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but decided that it would be best to keep him in the NHL for the duration of the season.
The Sabres selected Grigorenko with the 12th pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. For Grigorenko, knowing that a decision was made one way or the other was a big relief.
"Today coming to the rink, I was a little bit nervous. I didn't know what to expect. Finally, they told me I was staying so I'm really happy," Grigorenko said after the morning skate Tuesday.
"Well, I think by the smile on his face, it was a quite a big relief,” Ruff said of Grigorenko's reaction to the news.
Regier said two things mainly went into the decision.
"First, the ability to continue to continue his development in conjunction with his ability to help us win hockey games," Regier said.
Grigorenko played a career-high 17:10 on Sunday against the Washington Capitals. He has not registered a point through five games, but the Sabres front office liked enough of what they saw to keep him on the roster.
Both Grigorenko and the Sabres' front office understand that the hard work does not stop now that he has made the team, but it must continue throughout his career.
“We talked about the work he put in and the work he’s going to have to put in. He’s earned this opportunity,” Ruff said.
While Grigorenko found out before the skate, his teammates did not learn about the decision until they were about to leave the ice. Ruff gathered the team near the boards on the opposite side of the Buffalo bench and made the announcement. The team tapped their sticks on the ice in congratulations and a few teammates gave the rookie a good face wash.
“It’s cool. It’s awesome. I know everyone’s excited,” Sabres captain Jason Pominville said. “I don’t know if you saw the reaction on the ice, but guys were pretty happy for him. He’s made some big strides. He’s improved in every game he’s played in. I think last game was probably his best.”
Grigorenko will dress in his sixth NHL game on Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center.
"I think it’s a really good step in my career. I’ll do everything to show people that they made the right choice,” Grigorenko said. “It’s really good to know that I’m staying with the team and I can focus on the hockey now and not think about all those [other] things."