With the 2015 NHL Draft about to kick-off in Florida earlier this evening, news broke that the Buffalo Sabres acquired the coveted top-six forward Ryan O’Reilly from the Colorado Avalanche. In exchange, the Avs received Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, J.T. Compher and the 31st pick in the 2015 draft. The trade signals the end of a tumultuous time for Grigorenko who spent time bouncing around in the QMJHL, AHL, and NHL under the watchful and reluctant eye of Ted Nolan.
Selected 12th overall in 2012, the 21-year-old Khabarovsk native never got a true opportunity to succeed at the NHL level due mostly to poor managerial decisions that saw the first year of his entry level contract wiped out after the Sabres opted to keep him past the first 5 games of the 2012 season. He would feature in just 25 games that season and spent the majority with the Quebec Ramparts. Seeing your first two NHL head coaches and GM get the axe certainly didn’t help matters and the arrival of Ted Nolan didn’t change anything.
Grigorenko would appear in 43 games under Nolan’s two year stint and report to the Remperts and the Rochester Amerks last season, A change of scenery could be the right stepping stone in a career that could still yet be memorable. His next coach is a familiar face in Patrick Roy who was behind the Quebec bench when Griggy notched 139 points in 93 games. Unlike in the past, Roy has plenty of hands-on experience with Grigorenko and is likely the reason he was included in the package.
Also included in the deal is 20-year-old Nikita Zadorov. Unlike his countryman, Zadorov got plenty of looks by Ted Nolan and featured in 60 games last season notching 3 goals and 12 assists good for second best on the team for the blue-liners. At 20, the Moscow native has tremendous upside and will bolster the Avs defense in front of Semyon Varlamov.
Grigorenko is the first forward from Russia on the Avs since Andrei Nikolishin in 2003-04 and Zadorov is the first Russian defenseman the team has had since Alexei Gusarov in 2000-2001. The new young Russian blood should only benefit Colorado who looks to bounce back from a dispappointing season. This is a step in the right direction.