Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) -- The Sabres scrimmage Monday night saw over 10-thousand fans show up. As for what they saw, many players were rusty and play was all over the place.
A lot of fans came to see number one pick Mikhail Grigorenko and I bet they weren’t disappointed. After a few rough shifts, the Russian center found himself alone with Ryan Miller. He went high and beat him, but rang the puck off the crossbar. Grigorenko said, “It’s a situation that came really quick so the puck was around the blue line and bouncing, then I was alone in front of the net and I shoot it from the slot because I didn’t have a lot of time, so I shot it over Ryan’s shoulder.”
Grigorenko centered Steve Ott and Ville Leino and that line by far was the biggest offensive threat of the night. Grigorenko had a power play breakaway on Miller and tried to go forehand, then pull the puck to the backhand and just drag the puck short side. Miller kept his left pad down and made the save.
While I was watching, this line played like they’d been together for years, not two days.
There was one play that showed me a lot about the 18 year old’s instincts. He came down the right wing and left the puck for Ott. He then just skated backwards towards the slot and knew just where the soft spot was. Ott fed him the pass, and he created a great chance for himself just by getting to the open ice.
Grigorenko skated very well, which also created offensive opportunities. He came hard down the left wing side and found Leino in the right circle, but it looked like the winger didn’t expect the pass. If Leino’s going to play with this kid, he’s going to have to be a lot more attentive to detail than he was last year.
As for his night Grigorenko said, “I felt good. I’m in pretty good shape, I skated well today. I had a few good chances, but couldn’t score. Thanks to my partners, they created so many chances for me and it’s an honor to play with those guys so I’m really happy to be on this line and this team.”
When Grigorenko was announced for the shootout, the fans gave him a huge cheer. The kid of course liked that, “I was happy to play and even more happier when they called my name and everybody was really happy to see me, so I want to thank all the fans, they’re great here in Buffalo and it was unbelievable to play. It felt great and I was really excited and didn’t expect that and when they did that, (cheered for his name) I was just really happy and I realized I’m so lucky to be in Buffalo, it’s a great atmosphere here and it’s an honor to play on this team.”
Steve Ott has been around some good players in Dallas, but he already likes what he sees in Grigorenko, “You can see it in his game, he’s got the size and skill, easy to play with, he’s a superstar in the making and at that age, I personally haven’t seen a player at that age come into a training camp or come into any sort of NHL caliber hockey game playing with and have that much potential going forward.”
Thomas Vanek tied it later tipping in an Andrej Sekera shot. The white team won it on Cody Hodgson’s shootout goal against Miller. He was the only shooter from either side to score. Hodgson put on a good show for the fans playing with Vanek and Jason Pominville. He passed a few too many times giving up a few great chances. Tyler Ennis wasn’t anywhere near as good as Hodgson was.
T.J. Brennan did not look anywhere close to what he does playing in Rochester. He didn’t provide any offense at all. He was OK, he didn’t embarrass himself, but I think it’s a huge question if he’s a NHL defenseman that can provide offense at this level. The Sabres must figure out something to do with him by 5:00 on Friday.