Forward Mikhail Grigorenko is in his first season with the Colorado Avalanche after being acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres during the NHL Draft on June 26, 2015. Selected No. 12 overall by the Sabres in the first round of the 2012 draft, the forward made his debut in the league the following season and had played in 68 NHL games before joining the Avalanche. The Khabarovsk, Russia, native was no stranger to Colorado head coach Patrick Roy entering this season, as Roy was his junior coach with the Quebec Remparts from 2011 to 2013. Grigorenko spoke with ColoradoAvalanche.com earlier this season about his adjustment to a new team and city.
What were your initial thoughts when you were traded to Colorado?
“I was very excited actually. I didn’t know what was going to happen next season, and I was watching the draft and it was a big draft with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel and those guys. Then right after Buffalo picked Eichel, they announced the trade. I was really excited.”
Did you talk to Patrick Roy after the trade?
“He actually called me right after I got traded and congratulated me and welcomed me to the team. He just said ‘Welcome to Colorado.’”
Did you view coming to the Avs as a fresh start and a chance to rejuvenate your success that you had as a junior player?
“Yeah, for sure. I was really excited for the new opportunity and especially to play for Patrick. He knows me well and knows what I can do, and he knows my strengths and weakness. I played well for him in Quebec, and he knows the best way to work with me. I knew what to expect from him as a coach.”
You speak really good English. Was it difficult to learn?
“Actually that was one of the things that I got from Patrick. When I got to Quebec, I had no choice but to learn English. I had English teachers teaching me three hours a day, five times a week for the whole year. So 15 hours of English a week all year long. It was mandatory, and I had no choice but to get better and I liked it. I would watch movies and TV shows and get better and better, and it’s still getting better I think.”
Do you understand French as well?
“I would like to say yes. I understand it a little bit because I took classes my second year in Quebec, but I only did enough for two months. I then left for the World Juniors and went to Buffalo so I forgot what I learned. Now I spend my summers in Quebec City, so I think my French is getting better. I’m taking French classes so hopefully I will be able to speak really good French in five years or so.”
How do you like Quebec City in the offseason?
“My wife is from there, and I just love the city since the first time I saw it playing for the Remparts. I really love the city and the only thing is the language, which is hard but if you go downtown they are speaking English, too. I like it there so I live there in the summers. I met my wife there when I was playing junior.”
Did you know fellow Russian Semyon Varlamov before joining the team?
“No, but we met during the summer and got to know each other a little bit then. He's a great guy and a great teammate. I was actually really impressed. Before the season, he was just saying how the team is so amazing and the guys are really nice and we work really hard. It helped with the transition.”
What are your impressions of Denver and Colorado?
“It’s amazing. I was here over the summer so I was able to see some things. Just went around Colorado and saw the mountains; I was so impressed. Denver is really nice. There are a lot of nice things like parks, and people love sports here.”