It seems like roughly forever ago that the Blue Jackets announced they had signed Mikhail Grigorenko.
On July 13th, the Russian center signed a one-year, 1.2 million dollar contract after an impressive three-year run in the KHL that saw him tally 46-70-116 in 147 games. His goal-scoring production increased each year:
- 2017: 10G, 45 GP
- 2018: 17G, 55 GP
- 2019: 19G, 47 GP
Grigorenko, as many will remember, was the first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2012 at 12th overall. He struggled in the NHL as a young player, partially due to the fact that the struggling Buffalo Sabres put him in a bottom-six role. At the age of 22, he went overseas to Russia to find his game again, and folks, he sure found it.
As the Blue Jackets are wheeling and dealing, presumably hunting for a big fish in the UFA market, Grigorenko will be coming into the fold rather quietly. It's a perfect situation for Grigorenko to come in and make a difference right away.
Pierre-Luc Dubois and Max Domi are going to be the top and second-line centers, respectively. That leaves Boone Jenner, Riley Nash, and Nick Foligno as the only other players on the Blue Jackets roster with significant NHL experience at the center position. In terms of skill, Grigorenko eclipses them easily. He is quite skillful and has great size for the NHL, at 6'2" and 213 pounds.
The first two lines for the Blue Jackets will likely be very close to this:
- Texier - Dubois - Bjorkstrand
- Nyquist - Domi - Atkinson
After that, no one knows what head coach John Tortorella will do. However, there's no question that Grigorenko will make the team and play every night, as he should. All of a sudden, the Blue Jackets have a bit of depth down the middle, which is a very welcome sight.
If the Blue Jackets are able to bring in a Taylor Hall or Evgenii Dadonov, Grigorenko may see his role slightly reduced. But make no mistake. On a one-year, "prove-it" deal, the Russian is coming back to the NHL to make a difference.