Mikhail Grigorenko’s Decline



Near the start of the 2011-12 season, Mikhail Grigorenko was considered one of the top two talents in the upcoming draft. In fact, some lists had him as a "1B" prospect next to probable first overall pick Nail Yakupov.

The Crash

By the end of the season, however, Grigorenko’s stock had almost universally fallen across most consensus lists. As Kyle Woodlief of Redline Report put it at the end of April:

Mikhail Grigorenko (7): His pathetic disappearing act in a playoff series that his club was leading 3-0, and eventually lost 4-3, has every team drafting among the top 5 deathly afraid.

Grigorenko’s ranking is one of the most erratic across various lists at this point. While Redline Report had him down at 7th, Craig Button ranked him 20th in his latest update. ISS moved him down to 4th as did Future Considerations. James Mirtle’s updated rankings for the Globe and Mail today places Grigorenko 9th.

So What happened? Corey Pronman has an excellent overview of how perceptions of Grigorenko changed over at Hockey Prospectus. Some excerpts:

When I talked to a handful of head scouts during the first months of the draft season, the general feel I got for who they would rank first overall was between Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko and that Alex Galchenyuk would have been in that discussion if he didn’t have the season-ending injury.

NHL sources I talked to around mid-season felt he was a top-two or top-three prospect; NHL sources Bob McKenzie talked to felt that way at mid-season and even in the spring; a prominent NHL-funded scouting service felt that way at mid-season; and based on my own observations, I felt that way as well. So why isn’t Grigorenko a 100% sure thing to go in the top three now? It was around roughly February or March that I started getting a lot of people contacting me on Twitter asking about Grigorenko’s character and on-ice work ethic.

I’m not exactly sure when this issue started to take off, but it snowballed pretty quickly from the start of the spring to now. This was not news to me, as I had been well aware that Grigorenko’s on-ice work ethic was a hole in his skill set. When I polled scouts at various points as I mentioned in this column, whenever I asked them to talk about his skill set, they would mention he’s not the kind of player to go 100% every shift; yet despite that, they still talked about him in a glowing fashion. One head scout who had him as a top-three prospect said, "He may only be going at 75%, but he’s still clearly the best player on the ice."

So what happened between Jaunary and April that sunk Grigorenko’s stock in the eyes of so many? As hinted by Redline Report, he had a lousy playoffs, but a seven game sample isn’t enough to do that much damage, no matter how bad the performance. Grigorenko also suffered from an ankle injury at the World Junior Championship and, later, played through a bout of mono (which was only diagnosed after the Mooseheads bowed out in the first round and is a probable contributing factor to his disappearance in the post-season).

The Numbers

I decided to take a look at Grigorenko’s game-by-game output during the regular season to see if there were some answers in the math. His scoring famously fell off after the WJC and the ankle injury, but I wondered if there was another facet to his apparent decline beyond simply recovering from injury.

Pre-WJC production

Games played: 36

Total points: 58

Points-per-game: 1.61

Even strength PPG: 0.97

Powerplay PPG: 0.53

%ES: 60%

%PP: 33%

%TEAM: 38%

Grigorenko’s early season was indeed impressive. He was a 20+ goal scorer by the end of November and was scoring a high percentage of his club’s offense when he was in the line-up. What’s more, he wasn’t overly reliant on PP production, with about 60% of his offense coming at five-on-five.

Post-WJC production

Games played: 23

Total points: 27

Points-per-game: 1.17

ES PPG: 0.91

PP PPG: 0.22

%ES: 78%

%PP: 19%

%Team: 30%

I have highlighted the items of interest. Grigorenko’s output certainly fell after the World Junior Championships, but what’s interesting is that it was special teams – not even strength – production that suffered. In 36 games prior to January, Grigorenko managed 35 ES points, 19 PP points and 4 points on empty nets. After the WJC, he scored 21 ES points in 23 games, but just five points on the man advantage and one empty-netter.

This suggests that luck and circumstance had a strong influence on his downturn, rather than injury and suddenly emergent character issues. PP production can sometimes go south for various reasons – small samples of ice, poor SH%, etc – and the fact that Grigorenko’s scoring at five-on-five mostly held steady is instructive.

So even at his worst, when struggling through a PP dry spell and battling back from an ankle injury, Girgorenko was still better than a PPG player and contributed to 30% of his team’s offense when he was in the line-up. 


Mikhail Grigorenko’s scoring fell in the latter half of the season, likely due to either less ice time on the PP or simply a rough patch on the man advantage or some combination therein. His ES production was more or less steady, however. When he fell on his face in the playoffs (likely due to battling through mono), it seemed to put an exclamation mark on a lot of scouts and pundits newly surfaced doubts about the player.

Add in the fact that Grigorenko is, uh, not compelling in the defensive zone, is marked by the "Russian risk" stigma, and doesn’t play the balls-to-the-wall style most expect of hopefuls and you have a cratering prospect stock and the perception that he has work ethic and personality issues.

If indeed Grigorenko falls beyond the top-5 this Friday, the lucky team that takes the risk to draft him will likley end up with a great value offensive talent. 

  • I could definitely see him falling out of the top 5 but unfortunately there is little chance he falls all the way to 14.


    If he falls out of the top 5 what would it take for the Flames to move up to get him?

    I know answering that requires quite a bit of speculation but maybe there are some historical precedents of what it would take to say move up from the mid teens to 6,7 or 8, that you are aware of.

    Seeing as we will likely get a pretty solid prospect at 14 would the difference between that prospect and grigorenko be worth the cost? Or are the Flames in the position of having to try and hit home runs?

    • As a rule, it’s pretty difficult to move up in the first round. There’s rumors the Hurricanes might be willing to move #8 and I maybe CBJ or NYI would be open to something.

      The question is do the Flames have the assets to get such a trade done? Im not sure. Maybe JayBouwmeester + 14th or Kipper + 14th overall gets you in the top 10, depending on the trading partner.

      • RexLibris

        As I understand the Carolina talk, they are looking for an immediate impact winger to play with Staal. The Flames have Cammalleri and Iginla who fit into that criteria. Not sure if Feaster is willing to move Iginla, and the length of Cammalleri’s contract might stick with Rutherford.

        Also, the clauses start to muddy the waters.

        Either way, it is interesting talk.

        I highly doubt that if Grigorenko falls past the first ten that Washington lets him go by. They have made a good stock in drafting taboo Russians. Kuznetsov’s cold shoulder notwithstanding, drafting these players and letting them develop overseas while the Capitals wait for them to “want” to play in the NHL is a risky strategy, but it does offer significant rewards.

        And they always have the Ovechkin enticement.

  • The draft seems like such a… game, at times. Like, if Regehr hadn’t messed around with deciding whether to waive his NTC or not, the Flames might have gotten a better deal (and a first rounder!) than they ended up getting.

    I can see some GMs messing with others like, vetting the phone call for a trade, telling them they’ll get back soon, and then deliberately messing around and doing something else that screws said team.

    How much time is there when they walk up to the stage? Have GMs been told to come back to their table to finish a trade before they pick, especially if it involves that pick? I can see Feaster walking up to take someone like Grigorenko, then having to run off stage, mid-pick, to trade that pick for Lecavalier. *barf*

  • We have more info to go through. Goal/Assist splits, and SH% differences.

    I don’t have Pre-WJC and post-WJC, I have December 3 stats, then end of year + playoffs:

    Dec 3:

    Pts/GP: 1.58
    Goals/GP: 0.74
    ES Goals/GP: 0.58
    PP Goals/GP: 0.16
    Assists/GP: 0.84
    Shots/GP: 3.16
    Dangerous Shots/GP: 1.81
    SH%: 23.47%

    Rest of Year + playoffs:

    Pts/GP: 1.18
    Goals/GP: 0.51
    ES Goals/GP: 0.41
    PP Goals/GP: 0.10
    Assists/GP: 0.67
    Shots/GP: 3.13
    Dangerous Shots/GP: 1.33
    SH%: 16.4%

    A bit of regression there in his shooting percentage, and a drop in dangerous shots (scoring chances), although those are inconsistently recorded so who knows. His shot rate was pretty much even, but it had increased post Dec 3 to end of regular season before dropping by 1 per game in the playoffs (2.18).

  • Reg Dunlop

    As an oiler fan, the flames have always struck me as a hard working team that has prefers it’s players to remain somewhat responsible defensively. I don’t see Grigorenko working out.

    Would he pull an Iverson and say to Hartley “its just practice, man, practice”.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Great insight on this player………I suspect that some crafty GM will take a chance on this guy, especially in light of the fact he played with mono.

    For those of you who have not had mono before, I’m told that it is the equivalent of having to skate with a elephant on your back for about three months! This fits nicely into the time-table you suggested for his point decline and disappearance into the playoffs.

  • Reg Dunlop

    If Grigorenko is still on the baord at #14 for the sake of my TV Feaster had better sprint to the podium to select him otherwise there will likely be a remote control sized hole in the screen.

    That being said I would put the odds of him being there at somewhere between 0.01 & 0.5%.

  • @ Rama Lama

    I would believe that description of playing hockey with mono. When I was in high school, my buddy caught a really bad case of mono and was down for about 2-3 months. He tried coming into school for a memorial service and just spent the whole time wrapped in a blanket, shivering, sweating, and hallucinating. Mind you, he’s an amateur hockey player, so he’s fit, and he wasn’t even doing anything and was still wiped.

    Any hockey player who gets mono and then attempts to play through it – good for them! It takes a lot of courage (or a massive amount of stupidity) to play under those conditions, trying to help your team win. I think blaming Grigorenko for his team blowing a 3-0 lead in the playoffs is a bit misguided – it takes a team of players playing very poorly for this to happen, not just one player.

  • It’s ridiculous his post WJC numbers are even being discussed.

    Contracting mono is only a “probable contributing factor” to his decline? PROBABLE? It’s ABSOLUTELY the contributing factor.

    Does he have a history of disappearing late in the season/playoffs prior to this season?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    His battle with mono is excuse enough for coming up short during the back half of the season. I think you’ll see a team give him the benifit of the doubt this summer. He’s a much different player compared to Couturier. He goes top 5 and could be the best player in this draft. How many 18 yr olds are perfect to begin with. It’s what he becomes that teams are concerned with.

  • Vintage Flame

    If the Flames want a legit chance of drafting Grigorenko, they had better be watching if he falls out of the top 5. If so, they’d have to pull a quick deal to move up.. to say the Hurricanes with the 8th pick.

    It will be a roll of the dice if he falls that far.

  • RexLibris

    Lowetide has a link up to Kyle Woodlief’s mock draft.


    For the purposes of this thread: interesting that he doesn’t believe that the Oilers stay at #1 and that they trade down. Also that Montreal wants to move up to 1st overall.

    #1 and perhaps L.A.’s 3rd to Montreal for the #3 and Lars Eller? Then trade Gagner to Carolina for the 8th overall pick (according to Aaron Portzline this is something the Hurricanes would consider). The Oilers could draft Galchenyuk or Murray and another defenseman with the 8th pick.

    As for the Flames: Olli Maatta would be a good pick, but the name that comes right afterwards is intersting, Mark Jankowski. That is the highest I have seen him ranked to date.

  • Quicksilver ballet


    It couldn’t get any better than that for Oiler fans. That’s batting clean up and knocking it out of the park for Oiler types.

    Galchenyuk and Murray, where do we sign?

  • RexLibris


    I don’t usually look at Button’s listings. That is fairly high. The year-end ISS rankings had him solidly in the second round, but Button, I believe, tends to rank players based on where he expects them to be taken rather than overall ability.

    How would you feel if Feaster called Jankowski’s name Friday?

    He’s an eastern player, U.S. developed, I believe. Sounds right up Feaster and Weisbrod’s alley.

    • RexLibris

      “I don’t usually look at Button’s listings.”

      Nor do I. Which is to say, I look at them, but I don’t buy into them. Him having Hamilton 15th last year was just too much for me. I only mentioned it because 14th is higher (in the draft) than 15th.

      “Button, I believe, tends to rank players based on where he expects them to be taken rather than overall ability.”

      given how different Button’s mock draft was from his rankings, I disagree entirely.

      “How would you feel if Feaster called Jankowski’s name Friday?”

      I’d probably be in shock for a couple weeks. I wouldn’t like it, but I’d probably tell myself “Well, at least they didn’t take Tom Wilson..”

      “He’s an eastern player, U.S. developed, I believe. Sounds right up Feaster and Weisbrod’s alley.”

      nahh, he’s too tall for Feaster’s taste lol.

  • I’m sorry but Gagner for the 8th? That’s pretty laughable. It’s especially funny when saying Cammi and the 14th couldn’t get it done.

    In this draft it may end up that the 8th pick and 14th are pretty close to being the same risk/reward crapshoot. Unless Calgary is desparate to dump cap space that deal is a little lopsided.

  • Reg Dunlop


    Cammalleri is 30 and makes 6 mil

    Gagner is 22 and makes less than 3 mil

    Gagner has more trade value.

    This logic also dictates that Iggy and Kip won’t be moved now because they won’t bring much return, too old and expensive.

  • Truth

    I saw a post a while back regarding Grigorenko’s stellar performance against bottom dwelling teams and no shows against top teams. I’ve tried to find it for reference with no luck.

    Anyways, that has to be something considered as well if true. If he can’t produce against top Q teams how is he supposed to produce in the NHL? I think this is almost like a reverse Taylor Hall, one of the major contributing factors to him going 1st overall was his back to back Memorial Cup MVP’s, the guy performs when he needs to. Quite the opposite for Grigorenko.

    The mono story does make it interesting though.