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AHL All-Star Alex Grenier Enjoying 1st Season in Springfield

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

Alexandre Grenier is still waiting for a call from Alexander Ovechkin.

In the skills portion of last month's AHL All-Star Classic in Utica, New York, Grenier absolutely blew away the competition in the Hardest Shot event, winning with a shot clocked at 104.1 miles per hour - which is the third-hardest shot in the history of the AHL skills competition.

"It's definitely a surprise to hit that sort of number," Grenier told FloridaPanthers.com. "I didn't really expect any number coming out. I was just so nervous stepping into those first couple times. I just didn't want to miss the net or have my stick break, any sort of bad luck." 

Tweet from @ThunderbirdsAHL: ICYMI: Alexandre Grenier was clocked at 104.1 mph in the AHL All Star Classic Hardest Shot challenge! The fastest of any shot in @TheAHL and @NHL. #RiseUp pic.twitter.com/Zf6EqE2lv9

That same weekend at the NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa, Ovechkin won the hardest shot competition with a 101.3 mile per hour shot - 2.8 slower than Grenier's blast. But unlike Grenier, Ovechkin pocketed a cool $25,000 for winning the event.

A few weeks later, Grenier said he's still waiting for his cut.

"I'm still waiting for his check, but I haven't received it yet," Grenier joked. "If you want to send him my address or my e-mail address, I'll settle for half of it. That's fine."

While it's more than unlikely Grenier will ever hear from the Washington Capitals superstar, a two-day weekend at the Adirondack Bank Center created a wealth of memories for the Springfield Thunderbirds forward that, in many ways, hold more value than any cash prize.

For Grenier, the All-Star Classic marked a return to Utica - a city he called home during his first four seasons in the AHL. In addition to win in the skills competition, he also scored a goal in the All-Star Challenge, cashing in on a 2-on-0 rush with Lehigh Valley's Oskar Lindblom to help lead the Atlantic Division to a 5-2 victory over the Central Division in the semifinals.

"It was definitely cool," Grenier said. "I played four years there. I had a lot of good memories and met really a lot of people there and created a lot of bonds. It was just nice to go see all those people all over again and going back to the place that made me a professional hockey player."

After spending four seasons in Utica, Grenier signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Florida Panthers this offseason because it was time to "try something fresh." During his time with the Comets, Grenier was recalled twice by the Canucks, recording no points in nine NHL games.

"With Vancouver it was a lot different," Grenier said. "Those were my first games. It's always different getting called up and going into those types of environments. But what you learn is how fast the pace is, how you always need to be at your top level, how you always need to be engaged. You need to be mentally focused the whole time. It's just a really faster pace up there."

In his first season with Springfield, the 26-year-old has succeeded as not only an all-star, but also as a veteran leader. In 54 games, Grenier ranks second on the Thunderbirds in points (35) and assists (22).

"At this level it's just about trying to keep the same pace, showing how consistent you are," Grenier said. "I'm just trying to lead the team. Whatever the team needs me to do, that's what I try to do. The lead-by-example sort of stuff. Not necessarily talk too much, but let the actions speak for themselves. That's what I've been trying to do."

Grenier scored at least 16 goals in each of his four seasons before arriving in Springfield and has already tallied 13 this season. Originally selected by Vancouver in the third round (90th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft, he has recorded a total of 77 goals and 130 assists for 207 career AHL points in 331 games.

When asked if he was ready for another crack at the NHL, Grenier's answer was blunt.

"Call me up and we'll see," he said.

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