The Skinny: Mikhail Grigorenko is an elite force in the offensive zone and easily one of the best forward talents in the draft but questions about his drive might keep him out of the top spot.
Mikhail Grigorenko’s utter domination of the “Q” this season put him in line to usurp the first overall selection from Nail Yakupov – but major questions about the Remparts’ center’s effort level and commitment have effectively killed that dream. Both players are dynamic high-scoring Russian forwards but Grigorenko has the prototypical size that Yakupov lacks.
Grigorenko utilizes that size well and is very difficult to move off the puck, showcasing excellent balance. He’s not an overly-physical player but he’s shown a willingness to take hits to make plays (and throw some significant checks of his own). He’s got a superlative release on his wrister and is more than willing to employ a very effective one-timer as well.
As a skater, he’s got excellent edgework (accelerating through tight turns) and solid speed and acceleration with a powerful stride in the open.
Grigorenko will even showcase some grit and nastiness on occasion and is excellent in the dirty areas of the ice despite being a prototypical ‘finesse’ player. He does an excellent job protecting the puck in traffic and can weave through even the densest of crowds with some awe-inspiring puckhandling.
With top-notch vision and hockey IQ, Grigorenko effectively fills the role of the playmaker as well, creating numerous opportunities for teammates. He owns the best pure-distribution game (it’s a plus-plus talent) among forwards in 2012 thanks to excellent imagination and understanding of the developing play. In terms of raw skill (and perhaps total offensive upside) there isn’t a purer selection than Grigorenko in 2012.
The second overall selection in 2011’s CHL import draft, Mikhail has shaken off worries about a rough transition to the North American game. He’s been a stud for the Remparts, with 85 points to lead all CHL first-time draft-eligibles in scoring and sitting eighth overall in the QMJHL.
There are some significant questions about his game, however. Grigorenko has been admonished by several respected sources for inconsistency and in-game work-ethic. His shift-to-shift reliability is a major issue, though there are signs that he’s gradually improving. In addition, his defensive play (like many players at age 17) leaves a lot to be desired.
Of course, there’s also the dreaded ‘Russian Factor’ – which, because Grigorenko has only spent a single season in North America means a little more trepidation than for Yakupov (who’s in his second season with Sarnia). Still, with a talent like Grigorenko, there would have to be some very disturbing pro-KHL indications to scare a team away from selecting him.
In the end, we won’t see a horse race between Yakupov and Grigorenko, like Hall and Seguin in 2010, because Grigorenko was unable to assuage fears about his consistency and compete-level. He’s a rare talent but with the dark cloud of a KHL-jump, weak performances at key times (including the 2012 postseason, inconsistent efforts and the rise of several rival players – Grigorenko will likely have to wait till the third pick or beyond to hear his name called.
Ideal Fits: Like Yakupov, teams looking for an elite forward in the middle will drool over Grigorenko’s potential: Montreal and Toronto
Why Your Team Will Take Him: He might have the highest upside of any forward in this class and could be an all-star caliber center for years.
Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: If they’re scared about rumors of his work ethic and lack of competitive edge; worries about him bolting to the KHL.
Strengths: Playmaking, Skating, Puck Control, Finishing,Hockey I.Q., Creativity
Weaknesses/Concerns: Consistency, Compete Level, Defensive Game, Work Ethic
Projection: Franchise Center… or Second-Line underachiever (30g, 90p potential)
Predicted 2012 NHL Draft Range: First Round, 3-8
Overall Rank: 7
N.A. Rank: 5
QMJHL Rank: 1
Forward Rank: 5
Russian National Rank: 2
1.) Seth Jones – D – 6’4, 205
2.) Nathan MacKinnon – C – 5’11, 180
3.) Jonathan Drouin – LW – 5’11, 175
4.) Aleksander Barkov – C – 6’3, 205
5.) Elias Lindholm – C – 6’0, 185
6.) Sean Monahan – C – 6’2, 195
7.) Valeri Nichushkin – RW – 6’3, 175
8.) Hunter Shinkaruk – LW – 5’11, 175
9.) Ryan Pulock – D – 6’1, 205
10.) Nikita Zadorov – D – 6’5, 220
For the Complete Rankings List, Click Here