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Buffalo Sabres’ Mikhail Grigorenko in Limbo as Club Tries to Find Spot for Him

January 11th, 2014 at 11:30 AM
By Paul Lane Sabres 101

Buffalo Sabres forward Mikhail Grigorenko finds himself without a home at the moment, as his NHL team doesn't want him in the lineup and his junior team is unable to accommodate his return.

Grigorenko took his familiar spot in the press box for Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. That was the first game back for the 19-year-old since the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he scored five goals and three assists in seven games for Russia.

'023-001 // Moe's Hot Players Grigorenko, Ehrhoff and Ennis (10/8/2013)' photo (c) 2013, grilled cheese - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The Sabres loaned him out to Russia Dec. 5 so that he could get more playing time. He's played 18 NHL games this season, scoring two goals and an assist. But he frequently spent time on the fourth line, and he was a healthy scratch 10 times this season prior to the IIHF tournament.

AHL rules prevent teenagers from playing in that league, so Grigorenko can't be sent to the Rochester Americans. And his junior team, the Quebec Ramparts, can't take him back because their league rules won't let them take on a third non-Canadian player; they already have two.

Coach Ted Nolan told WGR 550 Buffalo he and Hockey Operations President Pat LaFontaine were leaning toward finding a place for Grigorenko in juniors. Grigorenko said he'd much prefer to stay in the NHL:

"I think many young players would find themselves in my situation. It is a little more difficult for me than other guys in the NHL, but it's still better than being in junior. I really want to stay here. I did everything they asked me to do. I'm not complaining too much. I knew it was the best thing for me at this time. I only hope to be done with the traveling. I just want to stay here."

That the 2012 first-round draft pick has struggled in the NHL is obvious. But the club has to take some of the blame, first for bringing him up too early, then for not trying to let him play his way through it. The effect on his long-term development is yet to be determined, but the way the Sabres have handled him surely can't help.

Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Hockey, NHL

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