Grigorenko played his best game so far this past Sunday against Washington.
The biggest question surrounding the Buffalo Sabres since they started this shortened season was whether or not Mikhail Grigorenko would stay with the team or be sent back to juniors. Blowing this decision would have had a huge impact on his future with this organization. So why was it the right move to keep him in Buffalo?
The Sabres' game against the Washington Capitals was the rookie's biggest litmus test so far.
He played over 17 minutes and was paired for most of the game with Marcus Foligno. Grigorenko also saw some time on the PP.
His performance in that game may not have been the overriding factor in the decision to keep him in Buffalo, but it certainly helped his case.
Even GM Darcy Regier admitted as much to WGR 550 when asked how much of a role the game versus the Caps played.
Let's take a look at the four biggest reasons, ranked in order of importance, that the Sabres chose to keep the 18-year-old Russian up with the big club.
No. 25 had 29 goals in 32 games with the Quebec Remparts before the NHL season started.
A common theme brought up when discussing whether or not Grigorenko should stay was what he would have to gain from going back to juniors.
Is it better for him to go back to playing in a league where he can dominate, or stay in the NHL and basically learn on the job? In the same interview we referenced earlier with Darcy Regier, he mentioned how much Grigorenko had progressed as an overall player.
Anyone familiar with Lindy Ruff knows that if you don't play two-way hockey, you won't be in the lineup.
The youngster has more to gain by being challenged. He could take a night off in juniors and still score four points; that's not happening up here.
At the same time, though, Sabres fans should be wary of the way Ruff handles the youngster moving forward. Lindy needs to avoid stifling him offensively and benching him for long periods of time for making simple mistakes. His handling of the talented No. 1 pick should go a long way in determining his own future as the coach of this team.
Buffalo could do much worse than the rookie as their third-line center.
When it comes down to it, Grigorenko makes the most sense as the Sabres' third center.
That's because it's impossible to make an argument that at this point in his career, Jochen Hecht would fill that role more effectively.
While Cody Hodgson has staked his claim as this team's clear-cut No. 1 center, Tyler Ennis' has hardly solidified himself as the No. 2 guy. The opportunity is there for Grigorenko to show he's ready to be a top-6 forward in the NHL.
However, his role, and especially who he plays with, is still ultimately Ruff's call.
It remains to be seen how his coach handles his growing pains as the season wears on.
The teenager netted the tying goal and the first of his career versus Toronto Tuesday night.
Through their first several games, the Sabres have been a one-trick pony. The line of Jason Pominville, Cody Hodgson and Thomas Vanek have accounted for a majority of their goals.
Ruff's already broken up the combo of Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford, but rightfully so, since they generated next-to-nothing in the first four contests.
The recent pairing of Foligno and Grigorenko has been effective through two games; yet, they need a better option than Hecht on the other wing.
You're wasting No. 25's potential by playing him with grinders.
For a team that's struggling to score goals, you have to put one of your most offensively gifted players in a position to succeed.
If we're to take away anything from the rookie's first few games in the NHL, it's that his defensive shortcomings aren't nearly as bad as you'd expect from a first-year player. So give the kid a chance to produce, or why keep him up here?
The young Russian has, for the most part, played well in his own zone.
Through six games of this shortened campaign, the Sabres are a sub-.500 team.
They lack well-balanced scoring so far, and they give the puck away way too much. None of that would change if Grigorenko were sent back to juniors.
This team has a much better chance of surprising some people in the East if they can find a consistent, second scoring-line.
And the longer Tyler Ennis struggles, the more Lindy Ruff needs to realize his rookie is waiting for his chance to prove people were right when they called him the steal of the draft.
Again, as the season moves on, we should develop a better idea as to how much Grigorenko's coach trusts him. There's no reason to shy away from using him in any situation if they expect him to step up his level of play.
Buffalo needs to take the kid gloves off with the young Russian, because their chance at a playoff berth will depend on it.