Mikhail Grigorenko: Why Is He Falling?

Once Nail Yakupov’s arch-rival for being considered the 2012 top prospect, Mikhail Grigorenko now finds himself dropping out of top-10 in almost every mock draft he’s unfortunate enough to take a look at. While some complain about his work ethic, others bring up the rumor about his alleged age-forging issue.

Toronto Star’s Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) recently brought this rumor to a whole new level tweeting the following.

Another, reason why Mikhail Grigorenko’s status is plummeting? “I think he’s 20, not 18,” said one Western Conference GM.’

The quote is very likely to put another spin on this story, but it’s absolutely worthless. Not only does it provide us with no proof of Grigorenko’s true age, but it comes from an anonymous source. Why would you attack such a delicate issue with… well, this?

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The truth is that age-forging exists in pro sports. The reason you don’t hear about people getting caught with it often enough is because it’s extremely hard to prove. Especially if you talk about athletes coming from places where corruption is not considered out of the ordinary. If you think bribing a guy who is responsible for keeping the birth registry organized and birth certificates re-issued is Mission Impossible, check the average salary rate in Russia and think again.

Nevertheless, it’s about as plausible that Grigorenko forged his age as it is implausible. Much in the way you can’t prove extraterrestrial life exists but you can’t prove it doesn’t exist either. Yes, I was into X-Files as kid, don’t judge me.

What we do know is this: rumors about Grigorenko’s age have been around for a few years now, to such an extent that even his former club – CSKA – decided to look into this.

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‘I want my son to be respected by the club he has been with since he was seven after we’d moved from Khabarovsk,’ said Mikhail’s father, Oleg Grigorenko, to Sport-Express last summer. ‘I don’t even want to bring up everything he had to go through here. Take, for instance, this ridiculous story about his alleged fake age. They even sent guys from FSB to Khabarovsk. They tried to find something illegal but they didn’t.’

Just so we’re all clear – the FSB is the successor to the KGB. You don’t goof around with these guys.

It has also been rumored that Mikhail’s older brother – Yuri – forged his age. He had a promising career in CSKA system himself but a series of injuries prevented him from making it to a pro level. At least, that’s what Mikhail says. What we do know is that he couldn’t crack CSKA’s roster at the professional level.

If we take this whole issue of the table, what other arguments do we have to back up Grigorenko’s dropping in the rankings? Well, there’s the ‘Russian Factor’, right? Word of advice – don’t jump to any conclusions yet.

There was something else Oleg Grigorenko said in the same interview a year ago, relating to his son’s relationship with CSKA:

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By the end of the last season Mikhail was playing 5-6 minutes a game. You could say he was a fifth-liner. I understand that every coach has his own goals. All in all, Red Army (CSKA junior team) won the cup. However, when a player is constantly ‘choked’ by his team, he’s going to think about going overseas, it’s inevitable. Red Army’s head-coach Vyacheslav Butsayev told my son before he left for the U18 World Championship that he wasn’t ready, he wasn’t going to win anything and he’d only lose time. That was his way of wishing luck. Are you kidding me?

If you look at how they develop young players in North America, things in Russia make you sad. You know, if a man feels comfortable with his wife, he never cheats. If everything was good for us in CSKA, we’d never even think about going overseas. We just don’t want to lose a number of years [in North America], knowing that they won’t count on Mikhail here.

Who thinks about money at this age? You have to think about hockey. Then everything will come to you. I even told CSKA’s GM Sergei Nemchinov that my son is ready to play for free in the KHL team.

Things changed in CSKA, of course. Nemchinov is no longer a GM, but that doesn’t help Grigorenko. With Nemchinov, CSKA had a low budget and was practically forced to give young guys a chance in the KHL. Under new sponsorship and management things won’t be the same. In case you were wondering, CSKA owns Grigorenko’s rights in the KHL until he turns 28.

It looks highly unlikely Grigorenko will go back to Russia any time soon, so you can remove this argument from the table as well.

The real issue with Mikhail is his ability to be an impact player. He did prove he has skill, but it takes much more than that to be a star. Work ethic and guts are just a few of the necessary ingredients and it’s fair to say that Grigorenko isn’t exactly known for these traits.

He didn’t put his team on his back – neither at the World Juniors nor in the QMJHL playoffs. Certainly, he got injured during the WJC but not seriously enough, despite what it looked like. His coach, Valery Bragin, was fully aware of Grigorenko’s condition and was not pleased when Mikhail asked not to be played. Bragin, who won a gold and two silver medals at the three World Juniors he was a part of, cherishes grit in hockey and, hey, don’t we all? At the end of the day, this is what wins you Cups. It is guys with grit, skill and guts you want to spend your high draft pick on. Grigorenko had his chances to prove it this season and failed every time. It’s foolish to think GMs around the league haven’t noticed this.

Everything else is a side issue.

Previously by Andrey Osadchenko

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  • “It is guys with grit, skill and guts you want to spend your high draft pick on”

    Grit and guts would be about the last things I would care about when drafting. Both are hard to quantify and extremely subjective.

    Other than that, really good writeup, really enjoyed the history on Grigorenko’s relationship with CSKA.


    Imo you get one Of teo things with this guy

    1. A guy that takes his falling in the draft and all his previous adversry and lights it up in the next two years with a huge chip on his shoulders.


    2. Damaged goods how instead of playing with a chip on his shoulder, lives with a chip on his shoulder in the form of Self pity. Playing out his rookie contract before returning to russia never reaching his potenial.

    Just saying…

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Too much drama for my taste, and probably more to come.

    On the other hand, I can see a guy like this going early and shaking up the draft. It will be fun to see who picks this guy up.

  • Clyde Frog

    Lol, yeah I don’t think Heartbeat; Galchenyuk and 1st overall should be in the same conversation.

    If after a long look and interviews, maybe…

    The kid lost 1 year of development, is “smaller” thank Yakupov (1 inch taller and lighter) and was outscored by Yakupov as a 16 year old by a fair margin.

    Also he holds both the “Russian Factor” and the “American Factor”, having dual citizenship at one point.

    Yes, the kid may be good. But hot damn is that one giant freaking roll of the dice.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    i was in favor of trying to make a deal for a second 1st round pick to try and get grig(not at sam’s expense)but this is just too many red flags for me and i know we dont and wont ever know the whole true story on this but i hope oilers dont do it now atleast not for grig

  • Clyde Frog


    Yeah, look at any of the photo’s of Gal and Yak… 6’2″ is optomistic if Yak is actually 5’11”.

    Google “Galchenyuk height” and you get Bios with him listed from 6’0″ to 6’2″ and weights from 179 to 205.

    Yakupov stays stead at 5’11” and weights from 185 – 195.

    Declaring him the bigger player on 1 to 2 inches of height is a misnomer. Galchenyuk seems to be of average size for the NHL and Yakupov is as well.

    The argument that Galchenyuk is a “big” centre is misleading by far. Although I put less stock in someone’s height than their actual ability, which Yakupov still seems to have more of in spades.

  • striker777

    I find all this pre-draft jousting very interesting. Im sure this rumor was started by a team that has no chance at drafting him fairly. Like calgary for example. What makes it interesting is that its working. Everybody’s talking about it and now Grigo is dropping.
    These are the kind if things I want Oilers to start doing. JK )

  • Danny Gray

    Great stuff, interesting that these “whispers” surrounding his age have been around for a while. I still don’t know what to think about Grigorenko. My gut tells me that Burke would pass on him.

  • Danny Gray

    I think Gregorenko is going to be the steal of the draft. Especially now that he has something to prove. By playing extremely well his first year, he’s going to give a big old finger to all the other teams that passed him by.