Buffalo Sabres: 3 Reasons That Mikhail Grigorenko Will Become a Star
When the Buffalo Sabres picked Mikhail Grigorenko 12th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, they knew they were getting an all-world talent. For the first time in years, GM Darcy Regier picked a kid who had a chance to make an immediate impact on the team.
So why do so many think Grigorenko is destined to be a star?
Read TSN's assessment of him midway through last season and you'll understand why:
Possesses the size, strength and skill teams covet in a first-line centre, protects the puck well and has great hands for a big man. Also has a smooth, powerful stride and drives to the net with force. Has a heavy shot, great vision and passing skills, elite offensive talent. Not afraid to get his nose dirty when so inclined.
Realize, too, that they had him ranked second among all prospects at that point last year.
Coming up, we're going to take a look at three reasons this 18-year-old Russian will become a star in the NHL.
1. He Doesn't Have the Pressure and Expectations of Being a Top-5 Pick
Now, let's not pretend that expectations in western New York for No. 25 aren't high, because they are.
Buffalo is a hockey-crazed market, and fans have been chomping at the bit for months to see what the youngster can do. The fact alone that he made the opening-day roster should say plenty about his NHL readiness.
However, he isn't coming into a situation where he's expected to be "the guy" from the moment he hits the ice.
He also doesn't have the pressure of trying to turn around the fortunes of a franchise, something guys like John Tavares, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have had to shoulder.
Grigorenko comes to a team that was supposed to be a lock for the playoffs last year. Right now, he's being penciled in as the third-line center in Buffalo.
To be able to ease his way into stardom could go a long way for someone who hasn't even been in North America for two years, yet.
2. He's Built to Succeed in Today's NHL
Whether or not the 6'3", 200-pound Grigorenko ever develops into a physical force remains to be seen.
One thing you should trust Lindy Ruff to do is to teach him how to play with some grit in his game.
Size like that is wasted if the player doesn't use it to allow his other skills to flourish. Ruff needs to ingrain that concept in Grigorenko's head from the get-go.
The Sabres can attest better than anyone as to how much the game has changed since the league returned from the last lockout.
They exploited the focus on eliminating obstruction by comprising a team built on speed coming into the 2005-06 season. But they've also failed—up until this past offseason—to address the NHL's transition back to a game predicated on size and physical play.
Regardless of him becoming someone opponents fear, Grigorenko's stature will enable him to thrive in front of the net.
That's where he can utilize his offensive talent to become a scoring star for Buffalo.
3. He's with an Organization That Is Committed to Winning
Another thing Grigorenko has going for him is that he's coming into a new era of hockey in Buffalo.
Terry Pegula, who took over the Sabres in February 2011, has made it abundantly clear that he is determined to bring a championship to western New York.
That bodes well for the rookie and his future with this franchise.
2013's free-agent class is far and away better and deeper than this past summer's. Guys like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Jarome Iginla are all unrestricted after this shortened campaign. Pegula will undoubtedly want to go after at least one of them.
Point being, Grigorenko isn't going to be on a team whose cupboard is bare. He will be surrounded by talent, which will make it easier for him to excel.
The biggest question will be if he can be a true star, a player who makes everyone around him better.
Sabres fans are hoping that answer comes sooner rather than later.