2012 NHL Draft Pick Interviews: Mikhail Grigorenko

Top prospects from the 2012 NHL Draft class meet L.A. Kings captain Dustin Brown during the Stanley Cup Finals (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

You’ve never seen a more anonymous group of future millionaires in your life. I was covering the Stanley Cup Finals for The Trentonian and LA Daily News a few months ago and was at the morning skate when I noticed a group of young men in suits being escorted around the building. They were identifiable only by “guest” credentials hanging around their necks, and they went throughout the morning unrecognizable.

Well, almost.

The Trentonian interviewed Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray, Alex Galchenyuk, Morgan Rielly, Filip Forsberg and Mikhail Grigorenko just after the draft combine and before the draft itself. No part of these interviews have seen the light of day until now, but 5FW is a perfect outlet to change all of that for the better.

I’ll go in reverse draft order with how I release these, so…without further ado, here’s my story on the 12th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Buffalo Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko.

NEWARK, NJ — A lot of people were shocked that Mikhail Grigorenko slid as far as he did in the draft. It’s safe to say the Buffalo Sabres were pleasantly surprised.

Just 18 years old, the big Russian center tore up the QMJHL in his one year there, posting an 85 point season for the Quebec Ramparts. His 40 goals were good for first among all rookies in the QMJHL, and he made the Ramparts GM who traded up in the import draft to get him look like a genius. Perhaps you’ve heard of him; Quebec’s general manager just so happens to be Patrick Roy.

Now, Grigorenko is set to play in the league that Roy dominated for two decades…well, at least when the lockout ends. But when The Trentonian caught up with him, the 6-foot-3, 200 pounder wasn’t even sure what sweater he’d be wearing, as he headed to the Stanley Cup Finals fresh off testing at the draft combine.

“It was really fun at the combine, I met a lot of teams,” Grigorenko said in a one-on-one interview.

“There were a lot of scouts, a lot of general managers. Today, we met some players from the Devils and Kings. It was really interesting. The Devils, they have like four Russian players, so I met (Ilya) Kovalchuk, he’s a really funny guy.”

Grigorenko says that Kovalchuk was his favorite player growing up, and there are already some people comparing the two, although Kovalchuk is primarily a winger.

“Just the way he plays, he can do everything you want on the ice,” Grigorenko said. “He can fight, he can score goals, he can make some plays, he can have some good assists.”

Soon enough, Grigorenko will get a chance to play against his idol. With both the Sabres and Devils in the Eastern Conference, even a shortened schedule would likely see at least one meeting between the two. That is, of course, if Grigorenko is given an opportunity to play with Buffalo.

For his part, he says he feels like he’s ready for the challenge.

“I hope so,” he said. “I have a few months before training camps start, so during the summer I’ll prepare myself.”

Thanks to the lockout, he’ll have much longer than that. Not eligible to play in the AHL due to CHL restrictions, Grigorenko was sent back to Quebec, but would be able to return to the Sabres should the season start.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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