BUFFALO – Following an impressive training camp, 20-year-old Mikhail Grigorenko’s “real, real close” to making the NHL, Sabres coach Ted Nolan said.
“He’s knocking on the door,” Nolan said today after the Sabres sent the center to the AHL. “Right now, he needs just a little bit more seasoning.”
That seasoning will come in Rochester, where the Russian played 14 games late last season.
Grigorenko, who matured rapidly over the summer, made Nolan and general manager Tim Murray’s decision difficult.
“With Grigorenko and his past history, what he’s done here, we’re starting fresh with him,” Nolan said. “He’s had a great summer. He almost convinced us to keep him.”
Clearly, Grigorenko, the No. 12 pick in 2012, has changed his standing in the organization.
“He’s way above, as far as I’m concerned, where he was last year,” Nolan said inside the First Niagara Center.
A year ago, the Sabres’ old regime gave Grigorenko a roster spot yet played him sparingly. That free ride ended shortly after Nolan took over.
Grigorenko briefly refused his demotion to junior halfway through last season. He handled this assignment much better.
“He handled it like a pro, a lot different than last year when we talked to him,” Nolan said. “He understood the situation. When he’s ready to go 100 percent, when he’s here, he should be here.”
He added: “When he plays here for good, permanently, you don’t want to be a third-line pop-in guy.”