With Training Camp Underway, The Columbus Blue Jackets Will Look To Solve The Mystery Of Mikhail Grigorenko

By Ed Francis on January 6, 2021 at 8:20 am
Mikhail Grigorenko: What Can Columbus Expect?

His name is Mikhail Grigorenko.

He could be the biggest unknown on the Columbus Blue Jackets this season, and yet, he's never skated for the home team on Nationwide Arena ice.

But by the end of winter, he could be one of the top scoring threats for a playoff-bound Blue Jacket team.

Or he may never play in the NHL again.

Yes, he's that much of a wildcard.

Grigorenko, the 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft, signed a one-year deal with the Jackets during the league's Covid pause. When he debuts in a Blue Jackets jersey this month, it will be his first game in the NHL since April 9th, 2017.

The 6'3", 210lb center played sporadically with the Buffalo Sabres over three seasons, and then regularly with the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. But the native of Khabarovsk, Russia never found his scoring touch while in America, scoring 22 goals over 217 games between the two teams. 

So he went home and found that scoring touch, tallying 17 goals and 35 assists in 55 games with CSKA Moskva of the KHL during the 2018-19 season. That was followed by an even more impressive 2019-20 season, in which Grigorenko scored 19 times and added 22 helpers in just 47 games.

That caught the eye of general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, and here we are.

"Jarmo thinks highly of Grigorenko," said head coach John Tortorella. "He’s been here training since August and getting ready for the season, so that’s a really good sign, as far as what he wants to do in trying to remake himself in the National Hockey League."

"It's going to take some time, for me anyway, to make a true assessment of what he is and where he fits."

"It's going to take some time ... to make a true assessment of what he is and where he fits."– John Tortorella

What the Blue Jackets have in the 26-year-old Grigorenko isn't just a mystery to Tortorella; it's a mystery to everyone. It's obvious that he brings size and a strong physical presence, which should allow him to fit in well as a fourth line center. 

But if what he gained while back in Russia comes with him on a second chance in the NHL? Grigorenko could slot in at either forward position in an increased role, perhaps even to the second line if he really dazzles. Specifically, he could be a force on the power play; one of his few points of consistency during his first stint in the league, with 11 of his 22 career goals coming while on the man advantage. 

If it doesn't come back with him, there are plenty of others - Nathan Gerbe, Stefan Matteau, or Kevin Stenlund, to name just a few - ready to take his spot.

So which version of him will the Blue Jackets get?

In a year without a wildcard in the standings, the Blue Jackets have managed to find one in Grigorenko.