It’s only been a pair of practices and an intra-squad scrimmage, but rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko is already causing a buzz in Western New York.
The Sabres’ first pick (12th overall) in last June’s NHL Entry Draft had three quality scoring chances in Monday’s scrimmage at First Niagara Center, and was dishing passes as quickly as his jerseys were flying out of the Sabres Store. (The team store sold out of the 50 in-stock Grigorenko jerseys by mid-day Monday, and took orders for 100 more by the end of the game.) Grigorenko even drew the loudest ovation from the 10,175 fans in attendance at the scrimmage when he was introduced during the shootout.
Ville Leino is manning the right wing on Grigorenko’s line, with newcomer Steve Ott on the port side. Even after just a few days on the ice together, Leino already likes what he sees out of the crafty 18-year-old.
“He’s pretty calm with the puck, sees the ice well. A lot of young guys are a little nervous and they make fast decisions,” explains Leino. “But he’s able to hang on the puck a little bit, make a good play and give time to the other players.
“He’s like a lot of good Russian players; they disguise passes really well. He definitely has that touch that a lot of Russian players have. He’s one of those kind of guys I enjoy playing with because he likes to make plays.”
Prior to signing with Buffalo as a free agent last July, Leino spent the first three years of his career with the Red Wings and Flyers. Those experiences gave Leino the opportunity to play with some of the most talented players in the game – and he senses a similar early comfort level with Grigorenko and Ott.
He’s definitely got some of that playmaking ability that guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk have. - Ville Leino
“I always played with players like that in Detroit, and even in Philadelphia with guys like Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and sometimes (Claude) Giroux and (Mike) Richards,” says Leino. “That’s the kind of player I always wanted to play with; they’re fun to play with. Otter is, in a way, the same way because he makes a lot of plays. He’s in a bit of a different role, but it’s been fun to play with these guys.”
When asked who he’d compare Grigorenko to, it didn’t take long for Leino to come up with a name.
“He would be awful tough to compare with Pavel Datsyuk because he’s one of the best players, that I would say, ever played. But he’s definitely got some of that playmaking ability that guys like (Henrik) Zetterberg and Datsyuk have.”
The Sabres are back on the ice Wednesday for day four of their abbreviated training camp starting at 10:30 a.m. All practices this week are free and open to the public. Parking is also free in the First Niagara Center ramp. The Fan Appreciation Sale continues all week in the Sabres Store, with all merchandise available at 50% off.
Individual tickets for all Sabres home games this season are now on sale. The team announced late Monday that four games have already sold out: Jan. 20 vs. Philadelphia; Feb. 17 vs. Pittsburgh; Mar. 12 vs. NY Rangers; and Mar. 30 vs. Washington.