If you haven’t figured it out already, 2014-15 is all about the rebuild for the Buffalo Sabres. The wish list for next season is simple: Show that things are going in the right direction and make sure that either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel becomes a Sabre on draft night 2015.
Part A on that list means looking for every sign of progress from young players.
Former first-round picks Zemgus Girgensons, Mark Pysyk and Rasmus Ristolainen each have a good chance of making an impact. Those three have shown enough to feel confident they will take the next step this season.
It is unclear whether second overall pick Sam Reinhart or former first-rounder Nikita Zadorov will be in the NHL – we may have to watch their progress from afar – but both are easy to be high on at the moment.
Two highly rated prospects, however, have major question marks around them: Mikhail Grigorenko and Joel Armia. Should we expect either or both of the two ex-first-round selections to make an impact next year?
If you asked this question three-fourths of the way through last season, there would have been have consensus vote of zero confidence in either.
Grigorenko struggled in the NHL, registering only three points in 18 games. When he was sent back to juniors, the Russian forward spent a few days trying to decide whether to pursue other options. The situation was starting to lean toward him being the next Marek Zagrapan.
Going back to March, Armia had been underwhelming. His scoring production was mediocre and reports from Finland cropped up that he might be interested in going back home.
In between then and now, however, things happened with both that should have fans feeling much more confident than they did while there was still snow on the ground.
For Grigo, it was his 14 games in the AHL. He came from another dominating performance in junior, where he scored 39 points in 23 games. That means jack. But when he arrived in the AHL with the Rochester Americans, he showed significant progress.
On night one, he posted two shots on goal and a pretty assist. More importantly, he flashed signs of playing a 200-foot game.
“I thought he was really good,” head coach Chadd Cassidy said after Grigorenko’s Amerks debut. “He was positionally really sound, he looked like he was comfortable playing the way that we wanted him to play, he was moving his feet all night and he was really good with his loose puck battles.”
The Amerks’ coach even began using him on key defensive faceoffs.
In 14 total games, he only posted four assists, but the progress in the all-around game was enough to feel positive Grigorenko is listening to instruction and taking steps forward. Remember, he is 20. Many mid-first round picks do not make their debut in the NHL until age 22 or later.
Armia is a little farther along in his development, spending the last two years since being drafted playing in the Finnish League. His first go-round in North America was so-so – until the playoffs.
Playing alongside veteran Kevin Porter, the Finnish forward took off. He scored three goals and three assists after only netting seven goals during the regular season.
Armia’s two-way play was never poor, but his inconsistent efforts were concerning. However, when the playoff lights were on, he stepped up. It may have been his “Girgensons moment,” where a strong post-season series gave him boosted confidence going into the next season.
So what are the expectations for 2014-15?
If neither plays in the NHL this season, that’s OK. Both need more work before they are ready to play in the NHL every night – and at this point, the organization is not pressured to push them into The Show as they once were with Grigorenko.
But they need to produce in the AHL. They need to score. They need to be dynamic. They need to show the Sabres that they deserve to be believed in.
Does that mean there won’t be bumps? Of course not. There could be a healthy scratch along the way. There will be mistakes and inconsistency. That is all part of growing up. What the Sabres need to see is the playmaking and scoring ability that got both players drafted in the first round.
And they will receive the chances to do so. If they both start in Rochester, you can expect top power play minutes and playing in all situations.
They will be given the things they need to grow and show the Sabres that they did not make mistakes with two first-round picks.
Will Armia and Grigo do it? At least the end of last season should make us feel more confident. Now it’s all about what the individuals carry it over and do with their opportunity.
What should we expect from Grigorenko, Armia in 2014-15
Please enter your comments below.
i feel both should spend a full year in Rochester
Time and maturity for both these players is necessary. So many fans now a days expect players to be in the NHL right away and I get so annoyed when people jump all over these kids because of one or two mediocre seasons. A full season in the AHL will helpGrigo and we can only hope Armia builds on his start to his professional career.
Hmmm, like everyone else except apparently you: NOTHING!
Seriously? You really think that either Floperenko or Anemia can play in the NHL in a meaningful game against the LA Kings and not look ridiculous? Against the Blackhawks? The Ducks? The Avalanche? The Penguins? Bruins? Rangers? C'mon, man; give it up already.
Sample size is too small
Grigorenko needs a full year in Rochester. Armia needs to at least start there.
Inserting Grigorenko in to the lineup to play with john Scott and a bag of pucks may have been the worst idea Darcy Regier ever had. Both of these players are young and they need to be properly developed. It's unfortunate that Rhinehart either has to play in Juniors or in the NHL. I have a feeling that if he started this season in Rochester it would fast track his development. The NHL needs to work this out with the junior league. Much like Grigorenko, he has nothing left to prove in Juniors but might not quite be ready for the big show.
I don't have a good feeling...
that Grigo will ever become a significant player for the Sabres. What he's shown in his lilited time in the nhl is that he can be a soft perimeter player. The news via the Amerks late last season offered a glimmer of hope...and i do hope he provesme wrong and can become an impact centerman for the Sabs.
What should we expect?
Simple answer: Nothing.
no player has ever been hurt by a year or 2 in the AHL and with Sabres case, it's the best place for them as they still learn the pro game.
Imagine how scary good this team could be if these 2 live up to their reputation, and Risto, Pysyk and Zadorov do as well. Add in Reinhart. Add in other prospects like Bailey, Baptiste, Fasching, Larsson, Deslauriers, Carrier...
This team could potentially be dominant if these guys develop how they are expected to.
Then add in the possibility of Ullmark or Johansson taking over in goal, with how big they are...
This team is going to be so exciting to watch...I don't think I have ever been this excited for hockey, and I am 31.
I just pray these kids are handled correctly...I believe in Murray though.
Paul Hamilton: No Comment
Why can't Paul Hamilton enable comments on his articles?
You are aware that there are 29 other teams in the NHL besides Buffalo, right? At the ripe old age of 31, you sound juuuussssttttt a bit too starry-eyed for your own good. I have to ask though what "reputation" do you refer to with Grigorenko besides low effort and completely unfathomable sense of entitlement? With Armenia, I am presuming his reputation to be that of another disappearing first rounder? Reinhart we will see about, but the rest? Caution is the best I would bring to the table with this team. That and a whole lot of skepticism. If, IF all the players you listed turned out well; they STILL would not be anywhere nearly capable of beating the best in the East to say nothing of the big boys in the West. Best open your eyes lest you dream your life away. That and stop listening to the morons on Hockey Hotline.
rochester. grigo another year
doesn't come to play every night. He's incredibly lazy. I'd love for him to go back to Europe.
Stack the Amerks
Best thing they can do is have most of the guys under 21 in Rochester. Let them learn the Pro game together, learn to WIN together, and most importantly...grow chemistry together. Bus trips together for 8 months will do a lot towards growing a team identity when they get to Buffalo.
While the last CORE never quite won us a Cup...Miller, Vanek, Goose,Pommers, etc all developed chemistry together in Rochester and learned to trust and play FOR each other. That sense of togetherness has been lacking since July 07.
What is the rush to have the kids in Buffalo and possibly get us off the bottom? Being #1 or #2 in the '15 Draft should be the goal in Buffalo whiles till setting an example of a better work ethic up there; and making a run at a Calder Cup in Rochester sets the table for 2016.
I feel like Larson is way ahead of both of these guys ...he really controlled play in the AHL when I watched the games ..I think he can do that here .hes strong on the puck
Negativity from fans
Stop your whining and get behind the rebuild.
We have nothing to lose and everything to gain this year. I look forward to watching all our prospects become NHL regulars and stars.
I couldn't be happier knowing Reiger is long gone and this team is looking at a bright future. Something I have not been able to say for a long time due to Reiger's smallish wimpy, never can play a full 60 minutes teams.
Re: Well said
Armia is 21 and was drafted in 2011. Exactly what "...start to his professional career" are you referring to? Sorry, but at age 21 if this guy ain't playing in the NHL...he AIN'T playing in the NHL. I'd say his make or break year was pretty much last year. Not good enough? Oh well, another Regier washout; no surprise there. Grigorenko? DOA pal, DOA.
More Of The Same From wgr
Thank you for putting this..."make sure that either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel becomes a Sabre on draft night 2015."... In the first paragraph of your article, that saved me the trouble of reading the rest. I am so sick of reading and listening to "the sabres must tank" talk BS on wgr.
Because he has to protect the team and the insults most likely are to true for his liking.
They started doing it when all the Sabres and Bills did was get put down and trashed talk. For good reason though. Now I guess they can start opening again. Unless EJ poops the bed and the Bills end up with Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis as the starter. Then the comments will get real ugly again.
Why should he?
Last time I read comments on a different article, someone called him a "fat tub of lard" for no reason.
Once again to the douche who wrote this article
We're not going to get McDavid or Eichel. I wish Pegula would pull the plug on WGR. Tired of all the tank talk. I'm hoping the Sabres get back in the playoffs this coming season. I pay good money for tickets and I'm not interested in watching players throw hockey games. I want to see them win. Has Jeremy White been fired yet???
To think that 1 or even 2 more years of rochester will make him into an nhl caliber forward is foolish. Some guys have it and others don't. Putting up points in the Q may be easy for him but thats his cap. When the game is at that speed and with those size players, he is great but that doesnt transition into NHL or even AHL abilities. He'll play part of a year in rochester and crawl back to Putin....