At the midpoint of last season, Mikhail Grigorenko was expected to be a top-3 draft pick in the 2012 NHL draft. However, after questions about his work ethic, age, and nationality, he ended up dropping to 12th, where he was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres.
It's not often that a team gets to take a consensus top end talent after #5 in the NHL draft, and for the Sabres to get Grigorenko at #12 could end up being the steal of the year. However, the kid has yet to prove anything in the NHL, despite tearing up the QMJHL and impressing thus far in his first NHL training camp.
Grigorenko is certainly impressing his coaches and teammates - the praise for his skill and readiness has ranged from mildly positive to slightly exuberant. Ryan Miller has said that the big Russian center is "an NHL caliber talent. There's no doubt about that." Ville Leino had some high praise for his new linemate, comparing his playmaking skills to Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg. And yesterday on WGR, new Sabre Steve Ott called Grigroenko "sick" and said he has future superstar potential.
The Sabres will have an interesting, and possibly franchise-defining decision to make in the next few days; if the Sabres want to keep Grigorenko this season, they have a five game tryout to see if how he responds to NHL opponents. For a team that struggled to score goals at times last season, Grigorenko could be just what the doctor ordered to add some scoring punch to an otherwise average third line. On the other hand, the 18-year old may not be ready for the rigors of playing in the NHL, and keeping him in Buffalo under those circumstances could hamper his future development.
If it were up to you, Sabres fans, what would you do with Grigorenko?