Top draft prospect Mikhail Grigorenko
of the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has left little doubt that he remains a very viable draft option despite missing some time with an ankle injury this season.
Since returning to the Remparts lineup two games ago on Jan. 21, Grigorenko has responded with two goals. On Tuesday, he scored in regulation and then connected for the decisive goal in the third round of a shootout to lead Quebec over the Chicoutimi Sagueneens at the Georges Centre in Chicoutimi.
Grigorenko scored both his goals against Chicoutimi's Christopher Gibson
, a second-round (No. 49) draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings
last June. A player many expect to be drafted among the top three choices at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh on June 22, Grigorenko took two shots on goal and won 7 of 18 face-offs in Tuesday's win.
Grigorenko had missed five games while recuperating from an ankle injury suffered at the 2012 World Junior Championship playing for silver medal-winning Team Russia. During the second period of an eventual 14-0 victory over Latvia in the preliminary round, Grigorenko collided with Latvian defender Arturs Salija at the Russian blueline -- sending him to the ice in pain. He'd miss one game and finish the tournament with 2 goals, including one game-winner, 5 points and a plus-2 rating in six appearances.
Despite missing five games following the WJC, Grigorenko remains 11th in scoring in the QMJHL with 60 points (27 goals) in 38 games.
According to NHL Director of Central Scouting, Dan Marr, Grigorenko is not too far behind No. 1-ranked Nail Yakupov
of the Sarnia Sting in terms of natural talent. At the time of Central Scouting's midterm release, Marr told NHL.com that Yakupov and Grigorenko were 1-A and 1-B in his mind. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound native of Khabarovsk was ranked No. 2 on Central Scouting's midterm report.
"Right now, Yakupov has shown, with the level that he's played, that he does have the ability to make a difference in the game," Marr told NHL.com. "That's not saying that Grigorenko doesn't make a difference. Grigorenko controls the play, can dictate how the game is played when he's on the ice. But, right now, the consensus was Yakupov has the potential to be a difference-maker in a game. He can just turn a game around in a couple of shifts; he's that dynamic a player."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale