Four years ago, Mikhail Grigorenko was out of the NHL.
After a 10-goal, 23-point season with the Buffalo Sabres, he returned to his home country, Russia. Now, after three very successful years in the KHL, he's back in the NHL with something to prove. The Russian winger scored 93 points in his last two seasons in the KHL (102 games).
He'll certainly get the opportunity tonight. With center Mikko Koivu out due to COVID-19 protocols, Alexandre Texier is sliding down to the third line with Boone Jenner and Emil Bemstrom. Texier will get to play center, his natural position.
Of course, that leaves a hole on the first line. John Tortorella has chosen Grigorenko to fill it for the time being after an impressive training camp. During the Blue Jackets' intrasquad scrimmage on January 10th, Grigorenko notched two goals and two assists. Playing alongside Pierre-Luc Dubois and Oliver Bjorkstrand will be a great chance for Grigorenko to prove that he can contribute offensively.
He's got the offensive skill needed to play in the top six, and he'll likely see some time on the power play as well. For a player who is only on a one-year contract for $1.2 million, this is a huge opportunity for Grigorenko to show the NHL what he's capable of after refining his game in Russia.
Puck drop in Nashville tonight is slated for 8 p.m. ET.