ROCHESTER – Nine months, three leagues and about 90 games later, Mikhail Grigorenko’s whirlwind season is over.
Each stop – the QMJHL, the NHL and finally the AHL – energized the 18-year-old Russian, who just joined the Americans for their first-round playoff series.
Still, after Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Toronto Marlies eliminated the Amerks, the center acknowledged the long campaign had worn him out.
“A little bit I’m tired mentally,” Grigorenko said inside the Blue Cross War Memorial. “If we would’ve (ended up) winning, it would’ve been great. I would’ve had enough energy to go and play more games. But now I know I just realized that (the) season’s over. I just realized I don’t have much more. I’ve played a lot of games.”
Grigorenko made two pointless appearances after the Buffalo Sabres’ season ended Friday.
The first-round pick skated almost 18 minutes Wednesday, mostly between Matt Ellis and Mark Mancari. It was his first game ever in Rochester.
Right away, Grigorenko noticed the AHL’s physicality.
“It was really physical hockey down here,” he said. “It really was like (the) most physical hockey I ever played. It’s a good experience for me. It’s a really good level. Toronto’s a real good team. (We had) two fast games.”
He added: “Guys have less skills than the NHL. So they play like really hard here.”
What was the biggest lesson Grigorenko took from this season?
“I adjusted to the Buffalo Sabres’ system,” said Grigorenko, who played 25 NHL games. “I was playing good defensively. I think this was the biggest part I improved this year.”
Grigorenko said he won’t be playing for Russian at the world championship. He plans to meet with Sabres general manager Darcy Regier soon.
“I’ll be in Buffalo for some time, but I don’t know when,” Grigorenko said.