Mikhail Grigorenko's NHL career got off to anything but a smooth start.
Drafted 12th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2012, the forward played in the QMJHL, AHL and NHL this past season, ruffling feathers at one point for refusing to report to the minor-league assignment.
The 20-year-old is entering the final year of his entry-level deal, despite having appeared in only 43 career games for the Sabres, scoring three goals and adding five assists.
As such, both he and the Sabres recognize the upcoming season is pivotal in terms of his development and his future with the team. Grigorenko takes full responsibility for delays along the way.
“From past experiences, I kind of realized it was probably no one’s fault but mine I didn’t stay in the NHL,” Grigorenko told The Buffalo News.
“If I want to play in the best league in the world, it’s just on me. No one’s going to just let me play because I was drafted [in the] first round. I just need to go out there and be the best.”
While it's yet to be determined whether he will indeed stick on the NHL roster in 2014-15 or continue to find his game in the AHL, what we do know is that his junior hockey days are behind him.
For now, that appears to be enough to motivate Grigorenko to step up his game.
“It’s going to be good for me just to play against men,” he said. “We know for sure this year I’m going to be playing against men. I’m really excited for this year. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get way better than I did last year.”