Igor Grigorenko was drafted 62nd overall in the 2nd round by the Detroit Red Wings in 2001. Grigorenko (DOB: April 9th, 1983) is a somewhat undersized forward who stands around 5’11” and just under 185 pounds. Grigorenko has started to make noise in the past year as one of the best prospects in the Red Wings’ system. Hailing from Samara, Russia, Grigorenko began his career with Lada’s farm team in 1998-99 where he had 6 points (3g, 3a) in 19 games. In his second year on the farm club, he scored 17g and 18a in just 38 games. The following year, 2000-01 (his draft year), he played with CSK VVS, in his hometown of Samara, in the Russian Upper League.
In 39 games, Grigorenko scored 10g to go along with 10a. Not bad for a 17 year old. The most impressive performance of the 2001 season, however, game at the U18 World Junior Championships. In just 6 games, Igor netted 6g and 4a for 10 pts playing on a line with 2001 #1 overall pick, Ilya Kovalchuk. His play in the 2nd half of the 2000-01 season prompted CSS to rank him #25 after being ranked #74 in the midseason rankings. Many thought Detroit got a steal when they selected Grigorenko late in the 2nd round of the 2001 draft. Since his draft year, he has only improved his overall play silencing those who have questioned his size. Following his draft year, Igor became a regular with Lada in the Russian Super League. He made a successful transition scoring 18 points in 45 games in 2001-02. His play in the second half of the season cemented the fact that he belongs in the Super League and has a great chance of being a successful player at the NHL level.
Grigorenko plays a skill game for the most part, but has also shown that he is not afraid of physical contact and will even initiate it on occasion. Many people have compared his playing style to that of former Red Wing, Slava Kozlov. I agree, in some respects. Grigorenko is somewhere between a mucker and a sniper, but is does not totally fall into either category. He plays similar to the Kozlov of old who was not afraid to go through the middle of the zone, who threw a hit when he had to, and who had a nose for the net. Grigorenko has good vision and understands the game very well. He is quick and, as I’ve stated, while he generally doesn’t initiate contact, he also does not shy away from it. He has a quick and accurate shot, although it could stand to be a bit harder.
Also, one of the most positive developments in Grigorenko’s game in the 2001-02 season was that he began to play a more sound defensive game. Now, he is not a defensive forward by any means, but during this past season he began to pay more attention to the defensive end of his game. This will only increase his chances for success at the NHL level and help make the transition easier when he comes across the pond. Detroit has always been a team that stresses defense with their young forwards and the continuing development of this aspect of Igor’s game will no doubt impress the Red Wings organization.
Grigorenko has already started the 2002-03 season off with a bang. Playing with the Russian National Team in Zlin at the Ceska Pojistovna Cup, Grigorenko shined on on the second line and notched a goal in the opening game with the Czech Republic. After an impressive preseason with Lada, Igor has shown off his offensive ability in preparation for what appears to be a breakout season for the forward. With his continued improvement, Grigorenko looks to be a major contributor in Lada’s success this season in the Super League. He will likely play on one of the top 2 scoring lines which should increase his offensive production. He also must continue to add strength this season and further develop his defensive game in order to further increase his overall stock.
In my opinion, Grigorenko is a strong candidate to make the transition to North America as soon as the 2003-04 season. Of course, Detroit has a very deep forward line-up and finding a roster spot for the young forward may be a problem. However, with further attention paid to his defensive game, Igor should prove his value this year in the Super League and make a very strong case for himself to receive a professional contract from the Red Wings.