With Ville Leino and Tyler Ennis getting ready to return to active duty on Saturday, Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier had to make a roster move. The final decision came down late Friday afternoon with the announcement that rookie forward Mikhail Grigorenko was being sent back to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Grigorenko was in his first NHL season after being selected 12th overall by the Sabres in the 2012 Entry Draft.
The 18-year-old Russian center had just one goal and four assists in 22 games this season, and was averaging only 9:44 of ice time per game. He has also been a healthy scratch five times. This is the first year of Grigorenko’s three-year entry level contract that he signed on July 18, 2012.
Grigorenko heads back to Quebec, where the sixth-place Remparts have two regular season games remaining on their schedule, and have already locked up a spot in the postseason. Grigorenko can come back to Buffalo – or Rochester – at the conclusion of the Remparts’ season, and could also be recalled prior to that if the Sabres reach their third emergency situation.
Grigorenko was among the QMJHL’s leading scorers with 50 points (29+21) in 32 games, before joining the Sabres once the lockout ended. He also had six points (2+4) in seven games for his bronze-medal winning Russian team at the 2013 World Junior Championship.
While some would consider this as a setback for the youngster’s career, Regier said it was just the opposite.
“When we talked to him today – and we’ve been talking about this for a while – I think this is an opportunity for him to keep growing and building on his experience here, building on the start in the Quebec league,” said Regier. “He had a terrific World Junior tournament. He surprised all of us by being here for the length of time he has been here. And depending how far they go in the playoffs, he will return here after the season.”
LISTEN TO THE FULL AUDIO OF REGIER'S PRESS CONFERENCE
In his 22 games in Buffalo, Grigorenko only reached double-digits in ice time 11 times. He peaked at 17:10 against Washington on January 27, but also played just 4:51 against the Rangers on Tuesday – his lowest of the season. In making the decision to send Grigorenko back to Quebec, the issue of his limited ice time weighed heavily in the final outcome.
“We wanted to give him an opportunity to see whether or not he could get his minutes up to a level where he could continue the development,” Regier explains. “Where we ended up, and really what drove the decision was, we were really using him in a fourth-line type role. We were hoping to get him in to create some offense. But his minutes topped out at 10 minutes.
“In the end, he’s got an opportunity to go back to Quebec, be the go-to-guy and play 20-22 minutes. He’s got a terrific coach there in Patrick Roy. It’s an experience that he can build on the World Juniors, and be the go-to-guy in Quebec. And I expect that at some point in his NHL career, that’s what we’re going to expect here out of him. But it’s not fair to look for that out of an 18-year-old.”