MONTREAL, QC. — The Russian factor: a fear that any hockey player of Russian ethnicity will choose the homeland and the Kontinental Hockey League. Mikhail Grigorenko carried this stigma with him; many feared he would never come to North America. His skill set and flashy play made him a fan favorite.
In the summer of 2011, Grigorenko made the decision to sign with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, and because of this, many scouts feel a bit more comfortable taking a chance on the young Russian. Mikhail has shown the flashes of a great player; however the question is, can he bring it every game of a long NHL schedule?
Grigorenko, born in Khabarovsk, Russia, has played his first season in the QMJHL, and made the transition from his homeland with ease. He possesses a wealth of high-end skill, however he is known for his cerebral approach to the game. Scouts say he has the ability to slow down and dominate plays, whether it means feeding an unthinkable pass to his team mate, or taking the time and space to pull off a series of highlight reel moves. At six-foot-two, one hundred and ninety pounds, Grigorenko has the package that every team dreams of: a big highly skilled imposing center.
To compliment his superb hockey sense and adept passing ability is his deceptive wrist shot which is a combination of power and precision. Grigorenko’s skating is nothing short of solid, and while he is not the fastest or most agile skater in the draft, he carries fine form for a young man of his size. Mikhail has many scouts believing that he can be a superstar at the NHL level; they also believe that his skill set is of equal level to Nail Yakupov, who is projected to go first overall.
With such an enticing package, Grigorenko faces one of the most dangerous flaws to a hockey player’s career: consistency. Grigorenko showed solid work ethic since he began with the Remparts, however in the month of January his on-ice efficiency slipped notably, as he was no longer initiated or was as involved with plays.
Many scouts were clamoring at the thought of a highly skilled player who displayed a similar inconsistency to former Montreal Canadien Alex Kovalev. It is the belief of some scouts that Grigorenko’s draft value will fall. If Grigorenko’s effort level changes for the better, and he is able to maintain it, it is likely that teams will reconsider where they have him ranked.
Players can overcome consistency issues, although there is no time table, nor is there a secret formula for how it can be done. Grigorenko will have to prove the critics wrong and become a constant force to be reckoned with.
Some project Grigorenko to go second overall, however given his performance since January, he is now likely to be drafted within the top ten. Grigorenko is a flashy dominant force waiting to be unleashed, and if he can harness that and maintain a level of consistency, he could be an ideal elite number one center that every team searches for.