Mikhail Grigorenko must impress the Sabres during practices and scrimmages. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ evaluation of Grigorenko trickier without preseason games

BUFFALO – While practicing and scrimmaging against his Sabres teammates, yeah, top prospect Mikhail Grigorenko looks like he belongs among NHL players.

But how will Grigorenko fare against other competition? The NHL isn’t playing preseason games during this abbreviated training camp, so the 18-year-old’s first appearance could potentially be a regular-season tilt.

It makes the Sabres’ evaluation of Grigorenko a bit tougher.

“You’d love to see him in preseason games,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center. “You’d love to see him against somebody else’s competition. It’s a great way to see where a guy’s at, and then along the way there’s the physical part of it, there’s the mental, there’s the grind of the schedule. There’s everything inside of that.

“But when you’re evaluating those young players against an opposition that’s coming after you, you get to see that guy under the gun, and we don’t have that luxury. So we’re trying to do it in these intrasquad games. We’re trying to do it in practice. … He’s had three good days.

“For me, you watch him play at the world juniors. You put value in that. You put value in the growth and you think if he keeps growing, a week from now, where’s he going to be at? So that’s just all the stuff, steady as she goes, going to try to evaluate and make the right decision to make us a better team.”

Grigorenko can receive a five-game trial before the first year of his entry-level contract kicks in.

The Sabres are cognizant their first-round pick could look great early and wear down as the season grinds on. They’ll weigh everything.

“You can go down the road and think, ‘Boy, what’s he going to be like after 24 games?’” Ruff said. “We don’t know. Every player handles that different. If you go through Tyler Myers’ rookie year (in 2009-10), he stayed pretty consistent the whole year … which was pretty impressive.”

Myers won the Calder Trophy.

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