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Igor Grigorenko
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Igor Grigorenko

There is so much talk about Griggy. I can't wait to see what he can do. See yah in September Griggs.
 

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Grigorenko is in camp to get a taste of NHL

By Ted Kulfan / The Detroit News

TRAVERSE CITY -- Forward Igor Grigorenko was at the Red Wings' training camp Monday. Not as a player, but a visitor.

It wasn't the way Grigorenko envisioned it, but the fact he was there at all was a relief for his family and the Wings organization.

Grigorenko, 20, suffered a severely broken left leg in a May automobile accident in Russia and briefly fought for his life after a fat embolism developed.

But he was walking without a noticeable limp Monday and looked physically fit. He began light skating a month ago.

"He's very strong, and he's going to get stronger," said Mark Lapush, Grigorenko's agent.

Speaking through a local Russian interpreter, Grigorenko said he expects to play in the Russian Elite League this winter and attempt to play in the NHL next season.

"He'd like to be on the ice and with the team," said Victoria Shevtsova, who interpreted for Grigorenko, who speaks no English. "Next year, he says he should be OK."

When asked if he'll be the same player when he returns to the ice, Grigorenko said, "I'll be better."

Grigorenko, who arrived in Traverse City on Sunday afternoon with his mother, Clara, and Lapush, will be in the Detroit area for two weeks. He is expected to do some light skating today before scrimmages.

Grigorenko will be examined by Wings doctors Wednesday and attend three exhibition games at Joe Louis Arena. He also will travel with the team to Washington for a game Sept. 25.

The trip to North America was arranged by the Wings for two main reasons:

It's a way for Grigorenko and his family to experience the NHL and become comfortable with the surroundings.

Perhaps more important, the Wings wanted their doctors to check on Grigorenko's physical progress.

Grigorenko brought his X-rays from Russia to be examined by the Wings' medical staff. He still has some pain his left leg, although nothing major, and is undergoing physical therapy.

From where Grigorenko was in May, the progress has been excellent.

Lapush said Grigorenko was glad for the opportunity to watch the Wings.

"He likes it here, but he'd like to be on the ice," Lapush said. "Maybe next year."

Lapush expects Grigorenko to be playing competitively by December. Grigorenko also will be part of the Russian national team.

Grigorenko said he remembers little of the accident. He lost control of his car while making a sharp turn on a rainy evening.

A second-round pick in 2001, Grigorenko (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) is strong on his skates, drives to the net hard and has offensive ability.

"A little bit like a bull," Wings General Manager Ken Holland said. "He's not tall, but he's physically strong. He drives his way to parts of the rink. He's one of the top young Russian forwards."


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Talent Analysis:

Igor Grigorenko is small sized mobile winger. He is a solid puck handler and a great skater. A quality that Igor constantly practices is taking passes at high speeds, which requires both of those skills. According to one observer for Togliatti, his skating reminds that of another product of the Togliatti hockey school and former Detroit Red Wings prospect Yuri Butsayev. Igor is not a large forward and mainly uses his speed and maneuverability to skate around the defensemen along the boards. This maneuver succeeds on a European sized rink, but would cause him some serious problems on a smaller North American surface. Igor, however, will likely adapt fine to the smaller surfaces because, despite his smaller size, when contact is necessary, he does not stray away from physical play. On certain occasions, he has been actually known to show his nasty edge and provoke his opponents - drawing a penalty or picking a fight with someone. Unlike many European forwards, Igor does not hesitate to shoot the puck at the net. At the 2002 U20 WJC he lead Team Russia with 18 shots. His shot, however, could use more power and precision at the 2002 U20 WJC only one of those 18 shots found its target. Igor is a capable playmaker, able to make impressive passes. However, an observer also commented that on occasions he does not pick up his head to look around for his line mates and tries to do everything himself. He sometimes succeeds in his individual efforts, but Igor would be much more effective if he would use his line mates better. During the 2001-02 season, Ladas head coach, Petr Vorobiev often used Igor at the center position on the second and third lines where he had a chance to refine his playmaking skills. Though Igor is clearly an offensive forward, he has significantly improved his defensive game during the 2001-02 season. He always tries to return into the defensive end and fights hard along the boards. These newly developing aspects of Igors game are largely due to the philosophy of Ladas new head coach, Petr Vorobiev, who emphasizes defense first and demands versatility and a two way game from his forwards.

Back In Russia:

Igor was born and raised in Togliatti and is a product of the Lada hockey system. Until the 00-01 season he primarily played for Ladas junior farm team, Lada 2. During the 1999-00 season, he dominated with 35 points (17+18) in 38 games. This performance earned him a promotion and he was loaned by Lada to its Upper League neighbor CSK VVS in Samara. There Igor continued to dominate, but this time in a professional adult league. During that same season he was promoted to Lada Togliattis main lineup for the playoffs, playing five games on the main squad. Igor made his debut in the Super League during the 01-02 season. He started the season mainly in the reserve, filling in for injured players and spending time on the fourth line. When Lada Togliatti was taken over by a new coach Pavel Vorobiev after the teams slow start, Igor earned more ice time from the former Russian Junior National team coach who is known for his development of young players. Igor responded well to the increased ice time and responsibility, becoming one of the teams most dangerous scoring threats in the last third of the season.

International Competition:

Igor has been a member of the 83 National Team since the 01-02 season. The U18 WJC Tournament was Igors most successful. He dominated the tournament with 10 points (6+4) in just six games. His performance at the tournament accelerated Igor up the prospect rankings. This year he has been a consistent member of the team at two tournaments thus far this season, including the gold winning Russian WJC U20 squad. He will likely be on the Russian squad at the St. Petersburg Big Prize tournament.

NHL:

Igor Grigorenko was ranked 25th amongst the European skaters by the CSB. This was quite a jump from the 74th ranking he received at the midseason mark. The Detroit Red Wings selected the forward with their first pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft with the 62nd overall pick. If he continues his progress, Igor will be a small sized winger in the NHL, with a significant scoring upside of approximately 20-30 goals. He has established himself as one of top scorers with Lada Togliatti towards the end of the season in the Super League and should stay around for another season to solidify the gains he has made in his development. It will also be in Igors best interests to remain in the Super League to once again represent his country with the Russian National Team something that would be very difficult for him to do after moving to North America. In his current situation, Igor will not gain enough from North Americas junior leagues to justify moving. After another year of development in the Super League, Igor should develop into a player ready to carry himself on the NHL level.