The Buffalo Sabres' roster is set for Sunday's season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers, and General Manager Darcy Regier confirmed today that 18-year-old center Mikhail Grigorenko will be a part of it.
Grigorenko, the Russian who was Buffalo's top draft choice last June and a star of this year's World Junior Championships in his native country, will get his five-game junior tryout. After that, the Sabres keep him and his entry-level contract kicks in or he'll return to junior play with the Quebec Ramparts, where he had 29 goals and 50 points in 30 games.
Regier would only commit to Grigorenko being on the roster, saying it was a "coach's decision" if he would play. But there were plenty of smirks in the room with Lindy Ruff standing nearby. Grigorenko is centering Steve Ott and Ville Leino on Sunday, just as he has all week.
"I think we should keep him around little longer and then the coach will have to decide if he's going to play him a lot," Regier said.
Ruff's assessment was this: "Good playmaker. He defends well for a young player. He's defending against his teammates. You'd love the opportunity to see him in an NHL game against other players but he does have awareness. He understands the game. His strength is his playmaking. He's shown that. You wish you had time to see him in games but you don't."
The locker room had cleared of reporters and players for Regier and Ruff's comments but I was able to return to chat with Grigorenko. Oddly enough, I was apparently the one who gave him the news he had made the team for now.
"Did they say I was going to play?" Grigorenko asked. Told the word was "coach's decision" he then asked, "But on the roster, right?" I told him that was correct, and the 18-year-old had the large smile you would expect from such news.
"I'm real happy that I'm on an NHL team now," he said. "I'm really excited and hopefully I'm going to be playing."
That's obvious. Ott and Leino have raved about Grigorenko all week, with Leino even bringing up comparison to former Detroit linemate Pavel Datsyuk.
"Every time I'll be on the ice all shift length I need to do my best," Grigorenko said. "Don't do something I can't do. Play good defensively. As soon as I have the puck, try to create something offensively. ... It's going to be a great, great crowd here. Hopefully I will score and it would be awesome to hear my name."
In other news, the Sabres announced Nathan Gerbe and Cody McCormick have both been placed on injured reserve. Kevin Porter, Nick Tarnasky and Adam Pardy have all cleared waivers; Pardy was assigned to the Amerks and will play for them tonight at Blue Cross Arena against Syracuse.
Click below to hear the Regier/Ruff session with reporters as well as some words from Grigorenko.
Darcy Regier/Lindy Ruff
(Grigorenko photo by Harry Scull/Buffalo News)