When Mikhail Grigorenko weighed in at the start of last season, he was listed at 209 pounds. After a few weeks hitting the gym this summer, the 20-year-old center checked into this year’s development camp 10 pounds heavier.
After his season with the Rochester Americans ended, he went back to train in Quebec City. He said he’s been training hard the past two months and so far, that work has paid off. The added muscle is already helping to improve his game.
He said he’s able to better protect the puck and he’s able to comfortably throw the body around a bit more as well. He'd like to maintain his weight at about 219 pounds.
“That’s probably what I need the most, be more explosive and faster on the ice,” he said. “I felt pretty good those first few practices and felt pretty confident in the battles. I felt pretty strong too.”
Since Buffalo drafted him 12th overall in 2012, he’s moved around a lot from league to league. In 2012, he started the season in with Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and joined the Sabres roster once the lockout ended. However, he only played 25 NHL games that year before Buffalo sent him back to junior.
He started 2013-14 in Buffalo as well, but once again, was sent back to Quebec after playing 18 in games.
After each season in Quebec, he's played a handful of games for Rochester.
Grigorenko takes responsibility for bouncing around and understands that no opportunity is going to be handed to him.
“From past experiences, I’ve kind of realized that it was probably no one’s fault but mine that I didn’t stay in the NHL,” he said. “If I want to play in the best league in the world, it’s just on me. No one is going to make me play just because I was drafted in the first round. I just need to go out there and just be the best.”
Amerks coach Chadd Cassidy is running development camp and has been impressed by Grigorenko’s work ethic and attitude.
“I think he’s got to keep doing what he’s doing. I thought he’s been good all week. Obviously we all know Mikhail and his strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “I think he’s addressed them.”
Just because Grigorenko finished the season in Rochester doesn’t mean he’s content with starting there this upcoming season there. He said he’s dedicated to earning a spot on the Sabres roster in the fall.
“I really hope to start the season in Buffalo. I think it’s just going to be up to me,” he said.
During his stint in Rochester this spring, the points came early for Grigorenko, but as his production declined, he saw his ice time begin to dwindle.
“I’m a player that has to produce and I didn’t do it, so my ice time was a little less and I had less opportunity,” he said. “I just didn’t get points anymore, which I understand why the coaches didn’t play me more.”
However, while with the Amerks, Cassidy saw Grigorenko become more committed to playing a defensive role and that has carried over into development camp.
“I think he was really good with the puck tonight. I thought he was way better without it than what we’ve seen in the past,” Cassidy said Tuesday night after an intra-squad scrimmage. “He was that way at the end of the year in Rochester. I thought he was excellent for us. He continues to make strides and we’ve got to keep in perspective that he’s still a young kid. He’s been through a lot.”
Whether he’s in Buffalo or Rochester, Grigorenko will be able to play a full season against men for the first time in his career. He thinks that facing tougher competition will help further his development.
“He’s got the right perspective coming into camp,” Cassidy said. “He knows that there’s a lot in front of him and he’s got a lot he’s got to earn.”
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