BUFFALO — If all goes well, then come October, Mikhail Grigorenko, the prized center selected 12th overall Friday at the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, will be the first 18-year-old playing regularly for the Sabres since Pierre Turgeon in 1987.
The Sabres, who introduced Grigorenko on Monday inside the First Niagara Center, plan to give the Russian every chance to make the big club instead of going back to the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts.
General manager Darcy Regier hopes to start working on a contract soon. In the meantime, Grigorenko will be working out in Buffalo until the team’s prospect camp next month.
“I think it’s a possibility he’ll challenge for a spot,” said Kevin Devine, the team’s director of amateur scouting, reiterating something he and Regier said Friday.
Grigorenko, a prospect some ranked as the draft’s most talented, could have an instant impact. With the free agent market, which opens Sunday, “very thin,” according to Regier, a teenager might end up being the team’s biggest offseason addition.
“The quality is there,” Regier said about the market. “The quantity isn’t there, and so there will be an awful lot of competition for really very few players, so most teams are going to fail in unrestricted free agency. Hopefully, we’re not one of them.”
It’s unclear what the Sabres will do. Their two unrestricted free agents – forwards Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht – likely won’t return. Regier has mentioned they need a winger. More grit wouldn’t hurt, either. Regier’s willing to pursue trades.
He doesn’t want to lean too heavily on Grigorenko or center Zemgus Girgensons, who they moved up to grab 14th overall. Right now, the Latvian’s still slated to attend the University of Vermont this fall.
Since he played in the USHL, Girgensons is eligible to play in Rochester next season. The Sabres could make a decision in the coming weeks.