PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22: Mikhail Grigorenko, drafted 12th overall by the Buffalo Sabres, poses for a portrait during Round One of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The Canada-Russia challenge is a series of games featuring the best prospects from both countries, and TSN's Craig Button is impressed with Buffalo Sabres uber-prospect Mikhail Grigorenko - not with his elite offensive talent, but with his surprising defensive ability.
Button joined WGR's Sabres Hockey Hotline on Friday, and chatted with host Brian Duff about how impressive Grigorenko was in his own zone. "He's that two way player," said Button. "The Russians, we always hear about the high-end skill, and how good they are offensively, but the lynchpin of their system has always been the centermen being the link between offense and defense, and I think people in Buffalo, when they get a real consistent glimpse of Mikhail Grigorenko, they're going to be really impressed with how well he plays defense and how he plays a 200-foot game."
Grigorenko is currently playing on a line with #1 overall pick Nail Yakupov, so the expectation is for that line to produce offensively. However, it's a very pleasant surprise to hear a knowledgeable source like Button, a Rochester native, praise Grigorenko's defensive prowess.
Many Sabres fans think that the talented Russian has a chance to make the team right out of training camp, but as we all know, he'll have to prove his effectiveness at both ends of the ice if he wants to play big minutes for a Lindy Ruff-coached team.
After the break, check out a video of every shift of Grigorenko's from Game Two of the Canada-Russia challenge, and check out if you can see what Button was talking about.