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Grigorenko wears his love of Canada

by Adam Kimelman

During his week at the NHL Scouting Combine and in subsequent interviews, one of the questions Quebec Remparts center Mikhail Grigorenko heard the most was how badly does he really want to play in the NHL.

He didn't really have to say a word -- his red-and-white, Canadian-flag themed short-sleeved shirt should have said everything that's needed.

"I came here to play in NHL," he told reporters in Edmonton on Thursday following a meeting with the Oilers, who hold the first pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. "I have a Canada polo [shirt] now. I really like Canada. Not just hockey. The hockey is amazing here. I really like to live here. It's amazing in Canada."

Grigorenko, in his first season in North America, led all first-year players in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 40 goals and 85 points. He is No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the draft.

The Oilers have been entertaining a number of candidates -- they met with Central Scouting's No. 1-ranked player, Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov, on Tuesday.

When asked which of them the better player was, Grigorenko said he couldn't compare them because he thinks they play two different styles of hockey.

"We're just different players," he said. "I'm bigger … good hands, good vision, but he's just kind of a more aggressive player. He's playing different hockey -- more power hockey. I'm more playmaking hockey."

Yakupov also just finished his second season in North America, while it was Grigorenko's first. He said it was a tough adjustment, but one he's happy he made.

"I didn't speak English at all [when he arrived in Quebec City], I couldn't talk to people," he said. "Now I can speak and everything is easier. I learned so many things about Canada -- the culture, the people here."

He also learned one very important fact -- it doesn't matter where he gets drafted, it's what he does with the opportunity that team gives him.

"I want to play in the NHL, that's my dream," he said. "The team that takes me, they want me and they will help me."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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