The Buffalo Sabres are not having a good year. A 6-12-1 record has them dead last in the Eastern Conference standings and they have lost six of their last seven games. The team decided early in the season that they were keeping top prospect Mikhail Grigorenko at the NHL level rather than return him to juniors, which is looking more and more like an awful decision.
In 15 games, Grigorenko has one goal and three points and most nights sees less than 10 minutes of ice time. He has been a healthy scratch a few times as well and is missing out on what would have been a great development season for him in the QMJHL. As a rookie last season, he scored 40 goals and added 45 assists for the Quebec Remparts in just 59 games. The Sabres took him with the 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft and due to the lockout, he began this season in Quebec. Through 32 games, he was on pace to obliterate his scoring marks from last season as he notched 29 goals and 50 points.
Not only is Grigorenko’s growth being stunted by a lack of playing time, he’s also had to suffer through an abysmal start to the season on a team that seems to lack direction. On top of that, Buffalo is paying him up to (a prorated) $1.775 million this season, more than veterans like Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht and Patrick Kaleta are making. In comparison, he would make just $70,000 at the AHL level, where he would not only be playing big minutes every night but likely be an All-Star.
This is a pretty costly mistake for the Sabres and time will tell if it affects Grigorenko’s ability to adjust to the game at the professional level.