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Grigorenko puts full focus on NHL, Canada

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton, AB - In Mikhail Grigorenko's mind, the KHL isn't an option. Still, it's a question he's commonly asked.

Wearing a brightly coloured, red and white Lacoste polo as he addressed local reporters at Rexall Place Thursday, the NHL -- Canada, even -- is where he wants to be.

Clothing doesn't lie.

"I have a Canada polo now," he laughed. "Teams asked me all the time (about the KHL). But I really like Canada, this country. Not only hockey -- hockey is amazing here, but I really like living here. It's amazing in Canada."

Grigorenko, 18, had a stellar rookie season in the QMJHL. In 59 regular-season games, he posted 40 goals and 85 points, along with a staggering +35 rating. In doing so, he vaulted up NHL Central Scouting's North American Skater rankings into the No. 2 spot behind Nail Yakupov.

With another 11 post-season games under his belt to conclude the 2011-12 campaign, his social demeanour is better now than it's ever been.

"I didn't speak any English at all when I came to Canada, so I couldn't talk to people," he said. "Now I can speak and everything's easier. I learned so many things about Canada, about its culture and the people here. It's easier now.

"I didn't know anything and was a little shy. Throughout the season it got better and I knew everything about my city. If I needed something, I knew where to go."

As previously discussed Wednesday in an exclusive, Grigorenko's compete level has been questioned by scouts everywhere. Amid the critique, he'd contracted mononucleosis late in the season -- perhaps attributing to his poor post-season production.

The 6'2", 191-pound pivot doesn't let it bother him. He's still driven to establish a career in the world's best league.

"I want to play in the NHL," he deadpanned. "It's my dream. Whichever team takes me, it means they want me. I can play in the NHL and be a good player, but I have to work hard."

Grigorenko has a busy day lined up, as he'll meet with General Manager Steve Tambellini, tour the Oilers' locker room space at Rexall Place and see what Oil Country is all about.

-- Ryan Dittrick, - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
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