The Rochester Americans have been slipping lately, losing nine in a row and dropping to 10th place in the American Hockey League's Western Conference. Part of the reason they've dropped off is that they have been losing players left and right to injuries and call-ups. Well, help is on the way. Maybe.
Top forward prospect Mikhail Grigorenko will report to the Amerks after finishing his season with the Quebec Ramparts and will likely be in the lineup Wednesday night at Blue Cross Arena against the Syracuse Crunch.
Grigorenko played in the playoffs for Rochester last season, but was not an impact player. The Amerks will be hoping for more than what the former first-round pick has offered at the professional level thus far. Grigorenko has only eight points in 43 games as a Sabre and did not score a point in two AHL playoff games.
In junior, however, he has been as dominating as you would expect for a first-round pick with elite offensive skills. In 23 games for Quebec, he scored 15 goals and added 24 assists in the regular season and nine more points in five playoff games.
In order to carry over his junior game to the pros, the 6-foot-3 forward will have to play a harder-working game. As a Sabre, he struggled with back-checking and play in the corners. Amerks fans will be looking for improvements in those aspects of his game. That said, he could still be a helpful addition even if his grit hasn't gotten better. The Amerks are 11th in the AHL in goals scored and Grigorenko might at least be able to set up some scoring chances on the power play.
Coach Chadd Cassidy has a pretty solid group of forwards, but will easily be able to find room for Buffalo's top prospect. The Amerks were forced to run three lines on Friday night in their loss to Toronto. Whether he plays big mintues off the bat is yet to be seen. It will likely be determined by the team's three practices leading up to Wednesday's game.
Grigorenko's appearance in Rochester is likely a preview for where he will be next season. He will (finally) be able to play the entire season with the Amerks in 2014-15.
The disclaimer on his appearance on the farm is that fans should not panic if he is not an impact player right away. For some prospects, it takes three or four years to be NHL ready, even though former Sabre GM Darcy Regier set expectations too high by trying to shove him into an every-night NHL role.