As the draft continues to draw nearer, the Mikhail Grigorenko story becomes more and more interesting. A player once believed to be a lock for the 2nd or 3rd spot in the draft is beginning to slide down the rankings, and is currently pegged anywhere from 4th to 20th. This opens up a scenario where a supremely talented, albeit inconsistent, 6—3 centre is on the board for the Maple Leafs at the fifth selection. What to do¦ What to do¦
The Basics: An elite offensive-minded centre, a high risk/reward type prospect; 40 goals and 45 assits for 85 points in 59 games played for the Quebec Remparts
Strengths: Grigorenko possesses sublime offensive ability highlighted by wonderful hands, excellent vision, strong playmaking skills and a goal scorer—s instincts. He uses his size well and can be an absolute handful along the boards in the offensive zone. He possesses a good shot and is an offensive threat every time he steps on the ice. What is impressive for a young European player adjusting to the North American game is that Mikhail has shown the ability to absorb plenty of physical contact to make a play. The upside is sky high.
Weaknesses: Grigorenko is going to get the classic inconsistent Russian player label attached to him for the next coulpe of seasons until he is able to harness that natural ability and absolutely dominate a game. He received heavy criticism for disappearing toward the tail end of the Remparts— series vs. the Mooseheads. His effort has been questioned at times, particularly on the defensive side of the ice. The skating ability is still choppy and may hinder some of his effetiveness on the rush.
Draft Day Outlook: I like Grigorenko and I think barring disatrous results at the draft combine, he is a top 5 player on draft day. In a draft lacking in top end talent, it—s tough to justify passing up on this kind of upside. Granted, it would not be unreasonable for Grigorenko to experience a Kopitar circa 2005 scenario, where the #5 ranked player fell to the #11 selection due to consistency concerns. This is a potential all-star calibre centre.