Last week, I had the opportunity to chat with Mikhail Grigorenko who is currently with the Rochester Americans. The 20-year-old Khabarovsk native spoke about his season thus far in the AHL, improving his game, and friends in the NHL.
Since arriving in Rochester how do you think your season is going so far overall?
I think it’s a definitely a good experience for me. Our team is in a little bit of slump right now. We started really good, we had 6 wins out of 8, and we lost a last few of our games. It’s a really good experience but we gotta stick together and keep playing, Personally, for me the last few games were tough but I just have to keep playing and getting better.
Does it wear a lot on the mind how your performance each game could affect a call up to Buffalo?
I try to focus on my game since I can’t really control those things. I want to be called up, but the only thing I can do is play hockey and the better I play the better chance of me being recalled are. I try to think about my game a lot and try to get better as a hockey player to get back into the NHL.
Which aspect of your game do you think needs the most work (if any) to better your chance at sticking with the big club?
Probably my battles, just being more physical and trying to bump into people more. I need to use my body a little bit more. Using my head when making decisions, I’m getting better and better at that part.
You’ve played competitive hockey in Russia, Canadian juniors and both in the AHL and NHL how would you say they differ from one another?
Probably back in Russia, a little more skill and more set plays. In North America, because the ice is smaller everything is faster and you have to play a faster game. You don’t have as much time to think on the ice and gotta keep up with the speed.
What does it mean to you to represent Russia in international tournaments?
Its an honor. For me, it’s the greatest thing to play for your own country for every hockey player. You put your national jersey on and you get chills. I really enjoyed my time playing for the junior team and it’s one of my goals to play for team Russia on the senior level. It’s been one of my dreams since I was a kid.
What do you think of Russia’s odds of winning a medal this year at the world juniors?
I think of them getting a medal are really high. Russian hockey is getting better, the Super Series is on and they’re leading by one point. They are really good and should win gold.
You were born in Khabarovsk home of NHL and sabres great Alexander Mogilny was he your favorite player growing up? Who were others?
I didn’t see Mogilny play too much because I was too young and it was hard to get access to NHL games back then in Russia but I knew he we was from the same town as me. My favorite player growing up was Ilya Kovalchuk.
How often do you visit Russia? Has any of your family moved here?
I haven’t visited in while because of rookie development training camps right in the middle of the summer. Going so far to Russia would mess up my off-season training since I work out in Canada during the off-season. My parents are still in Khaborsvk while my brother lives in Moscow. They haven’t visited me in Rochester yet but they visited me last year in Buffalo. I also saw them during juniors last year since it was in Russia. Next summer I definitely looking forward to going to visit them and my friends.
What do you like most about living in the United States?
Its really safe and clean and the people are nice. Everyone loves hockey so everything is great. Im just happy to play and live out my dream.
Which is city have you enjoyed visiting the most in the US?
Of course New York is a great city and it reminds me a lot of Moscow because there’s a lot of people. I really like Chicago and also enjoy California, primarily Anaheim and Los Angeles. Everywhere we go on road trips is really nice.
According to your facebook page you are good friends with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, who are some fellow Russians you are close with in hockey?
Can we say Zadorov does he count as an NHL player (laughs)? Him and Kucherov.