Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mikhail Grigorenko: Two Autographed Cards

Mikhail Grigorenko signed a one-year "show-me" contract with the Colorado Avalanche yesterday, after a season that Buffalo Sabres fans will call disappointing ("27 points in 74 games, unfit for a 12th overall pick, what a bust! Glad we got Ryan O'Reilly!"), whereas Avs fans, while unsure at the beginning of the season with the healthy scratches, under 10 minutes of ice time and looking out of shape, are happy with how he progressed throughout the year and looked worthy of a top-6 role on a very skilled team offensively.

What happened was the Sabres stalled his development, first by keeping him in the NHL but sitting him in half the games in 2012-13, then by sending him to Juniors midway through his sophomore season whist burning a year on his entry-level deal, and finally by demoting the disgruntled forward to the AHL and never really giving him a shot at showing what he can do.

This is, after all, a guy who had 70 goals and 139 points in 92 regular-season games with the LHJMQ's Québec Remparts (plus another 24 points in 22 post-season games) before even being drafted. And that time the Sabres sent him back against his will? He still put up 15 goals and 39 points in 23 games, plus 9 more in 5 playoff games.

The game that brought him to life last year - the first time he played over 15 minutes in a game in 2015-16 - was at the Bell Centre, against the Montréal Canadiens, in November, where he had a goal and two assists, which also sparked the Habs' downfall.

It was after that game that he signed these two cards in blue sharpie, first the one showing him with the Remparts, on card #100 from In The Game's 2011-12 Heroes And Prospects card (and CHL Rookie sub-set):
And a card from the dark days of the Sabres not knowing what to do with him, on card #213 from Panini's 2013-14 Prizm set and Dual Rookie Class sub-set (the regular silver version):
His second half was terrific; it was where he posted 15 of his 27 points and became a fixture on the ice, more often than not hitting the 15-minute mark, including seven games at or near the 20-minute mark.

Essentially, he should be getting second-line minutes and second-unit powerplay time next season, which should at worst get him in line to sign a long-term deal (five or six years) at $4-5M per; at best, he could become the team's second-line center if Matt Duchene becomes expendable and gets traded for a good defenseman, which the team sorely lacks behind Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson.

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