Talent-wise, Mikhail Grigorenko has perhaps the most offensive upside of any forward available in the 2012 NHL Draft other than Nail Yakupov.
However, unfounded or not, some scouts have their doubts about Grigorenko as a top draft pick. One specific criticism levied on the Moscow, Russia native surrounds his work ethic and compete level.
The detractors point to his subpar performance in the second round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs in which he had just three points in seven games. His Quebec Remparts blew a 3-1 series lead and a 3-1 second-period lead in Game 7 to the Halifax Mooseheads. Grigorenko had a goal and an assist and was minus-5 in those four final games.
“It would be fair to say that some people have questioned his commitment to compete at 100 percent all the time,” said Canes Director of Amateur Scouting Tony MacDonald. “You could probably say that there are some nights that he doesn’t bring his A game.”
His poor second-round showing was likely due to illness, as he contracted the energy-draining mononucleosis after putting up 7 points in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs. This also kept him from participating in the physical testing portions of the combine.
|HOMETOWN: MOSCOW, RUSSIA |
|HEIGHT: 6-2 |
|WEIGHT: 191 |
|BIRTHDAY: MAY 16, 1994 (AGE 18) |
“That could have played into the fact that he appeared to be a little tired or lacked energy in some of the games,” MacDonald said.
Legendary goaltender and coach of the Remparts Patrick Roy has publicly come to Grigorenko’s defense, saying that the 2012 BMO Rookie of the Year winner is a “hard-working … impactful player with a grade A attitude.”
This is why, despite the perhaps unfair and misguided criticisms, what Grigorenko accomplished in the regular season and what he is capable of on the ice cannot be ignored. He is, indeed, ranked third among North American Skaters by Central Scouting.
“He is [a top-tier player] in terms of talent. He’s a big, playmaking center with great vision and puck skills,” MacDonald said. “Every team covets a player like this. You’re looking for a guy with size and reach and skill who can skate and create. He is all of those things.”
In his first North American season, Grigorenko posted 85 points (40g, 45a) and a plus-35 rating 59 games. Closing in on the 200-pound mark, the 6-foot-2 rangy forward has the all-around package of size, skill and smarts to be a top-five, if not top-three draft pick.
As a 17-year-old this winter, Grigorenko played for the silver-medal winning Team Russia in the World Junior Championship. He finished the tournament with 2 goals and 3 assists in six games in spite of suffering an ankle injury against Latvia in preliminary round play. The experience, Grigorenko has said, was a dream for him, and he now aspires to play with Team Russia in the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Even with the vilification Grigorenko has been through lately, MacDonald believes he will still be a top selection come the night of June 22.
And why not? His skills are proven and elite. His commitment to playing in the National Hockey League was demonstrated in his move to play in North America last season rather than stay in Russia. He’s being compared to the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Jason Spezza.
“I don’t worry much that he’ll fall too far, but anything can happen,” MacDonald said. “There’s such a mix of talent at the top that it’s difficult to guess what other teams might do, but it would be a surprise if he fell too far.”