Archive for June, 2012:

UFA Day (also Known as WTF Day)

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Update: follow along at the UFA Day Mega Chat.  11:45.

 

UFA Day is upon us.

The UFA crop is slim. Things are gonna’ get crazy.

show me the money 300x269 UFA Day (also Known as WTF Day)

I’m talkin’ Tom Cruise crazy. Much money WILL be shown.

I know a lot of Sabres fans out there are clamoring for a big time signing on a Parise or a Doan, but perhaps the best outcome for the Sabres is if they sign no one.*

“No one?!?” you ask.

Yup – and here’s why:

  1. We’ve overspent enough already on free agents.
  2. Buffalo needs to vastly overpay/woo Big Names in order for them to come here.
  3. The Sabres’ best return for investment right now is in the trade market.

Heck, I’d love Parise on this team as much as the next guy. I don’t care if he doesn’t play center – he scores goals. Lots of ‘em. And the Sabres need goals. But hold fast, fans. Don’t we already have an overpaid player who has scored 25+ goals for 7 straight seasons? Don’t we absolutely loathe the “Vanekontract?”

Both Vanek and Parise started out in the NHL in 2005. Vanek has netted 230 goals in 547 games. Parise – 194 in 502. Their shooting percentages: TV, .152; ZP, .114. Despite the goal scoring prowess of Parise, we just can’t afford another “Vanekontract” on this team. And trust me, Parise is gonna’ get paaaaaid.

Simply put, the Sabres cannot throw whatever remaining monies they have at The Big Signing. Rather, they should unload some contracts or bodies in return for a good return that fills a need – or strengthens a need – we’ve got the pieces to do that.

The Sabres would find better soldiers of fortune in the trade market. The draft and the trade market are the Sabres’ best bets for landing credibly good hockey players to fill needs. With the draft wrapped up, it’s time to swing a deal or three (assuming they can get a star to waive a NMC to come to Buffalo).

Go ahead, Regier, and get to shanghai us some awesome players – we won’t judge you here.

Remember, the Sabres have a glut of prospects coming up the pipeline, most notably on defense, and now suddenly down the middle. They also have that “Old Core” which has proven to be fantastically talented at not winning Cups, (or enough regular season games to even have a shot at the Cup).

Also, remember:

  1. BEWARE: fake Twitter accounts are rampant on UFA day. Check the account before you RT it. Please.
  2. Big signings are announced long after Day One expires. Don’t fill my Sabres Twitter feed with all caps cussin’ if they haven’t done what you want by Sunday afternoon. Be patient.

And most importantly:

  1. Have fun. This is not the year we lose “Briere and Drury.” Kudos to New Jersey for possibly taking that crown of thorns from us this year, as Parise and now even Martin Brodeur could both bolt for greener pastures.

Brodeur Tweet UFA Day (also Known as WTF Day)

I’ll be joining the UFA Day mega-chat again with other Sabres bloggerati, hosted by the Goose’s Roost. I’ll post a link on my twitter when we’re ready for launch. UPDATE: again, here is the link to the Mega Chat, which starts at 11:45.

Again,

Go ahead and call me Buzzkill McBuzzkillington, but I just want the best for this team.

*Whatever will be shall be, but if it were up to me, my “big” target would be Zenon Konopka. He’s a big, mean body, and great on the faceoff dot. At 31, he’d be a very cheap replacement for Gaustad.

UPDATE: Gaustad was just handed $13 mil over  four years. There goes another bank: broken. Meanwhile, Konopka is likely frantically practicing how to replicate Gaustad “switch-handed” faceoffs before the frenzy kicks in at noon tomorrow. Konopka is coming off of a one year deal, where he made just $700k in Ottawa.

Go Sabres.

 

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Xenophobia: Grigorenko, Buffalo, and the Motherland

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The Russian Factor.

Lazy Russians.

Enigmatic Russians.

Mikhail Grigorenko slipped to the Sabres all the way down the draft board to #12 for all of the above. It didn’t matter that he was out there trying to play hockey with mononucleosis – concerns over his work ethic remained even after that news tidbit came out. It should be odd that we’d slap a “Lazy Russian” tag on him. As Jeremy White pointed out in a podcast with Brad Riter over at Trending Buffalo, if he was American or Canadian, we’d likely instead be talking about his effort to play while “stricken with disease.”

In such a way, Grigorenko is already an “enigma” in the NHL. He still has to prove his work ethic. Still has to prove he’s not another “lazy Russian.” He still will need years to prove to us that he won’t bolt to the KHL.

So far, none of this is making fans in Buffalo all that nervous, but it is in the back of our minds. It is in the media conversations.

Grigorenko Sabres Draft NHL 300x233 Xenophobia: Grigorenko, Buffalo, and the Motherland

He looks happy. Right? Then again, why the heck am I analyzing his expression at all?

We’re all going to have to get over our own xenophobia – but the weird thing is, it seems to be up to Grigorenko to do it for us. Hell, all I want is for the kid to succeed, score goals, and help the Sabres make the playoffs. But again – what if he doesn’t stick with the team this year? Will he eventually get frustrated enough playing in the QMJHL and “bolt to the KHL,” where the competition is against men, and the rinks are paved with gold?

Crap – what if there is a NHL lockout this season?

I’d like to call it doubt, or put the blame for all these questions simply the natural dubious instincts of the human mind. But it’s not.

It’s xenophobia:

Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity. Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality.”

And I just typed “…where the rinks are paved with gold.” Is that enough “exotic quality” or what?

Mind, the anxiety is playing out in much the same way in Russia as it is here.

Congratulations, we (the KHL) are afraid! Now this is no longer any doubt. If a small number of selected Russians in the last few draft choices, many explained by the fact that, say, and to choose something special there was no one, now it differently as xenophobia and can not be called.Moreover, xenophobic, bordering on panic madness.

Painting League (the mis-perception of the KHL) for North Americans look like this – the mysterious League with very poor infrastructure, but where all the clubs in polls in the presence of a lot of money bags, which they gladly would give young players, and those only happy to take them in his arms.

Realistic looks, really. Of course, Nail Yakupov goes to “Neftekhimik” earning $ 10 million a month if he suddenly did not have to court the “Oilers”. Of course, for the same money back in CSKA for Mikhail Grigorenko.

…Grigorenko was eventually selected as the 12th number of “Buffalo”, and it’s a surprise. Not even because he was chosen relatively late, but because it is “Sabres.” After all, “Blades” had been a stronghold of xenophobia against the Russians – they do not choose our countrymen for six years. And there is not enough that they took Grigorenko, so also the Latvian striker Zemgusa Girgensonsa.

The well-known North American agent, Jay Grossman, said shortly before the draft pick that all of our players will be selected by the teams that they are really interested. It sounds logical. Because if even in an atmosphere of general panic, you make a choice in favor of the Russians, you must be a hell of an interest in it.

However, this also makes the atmosphere of our players to go overseas and make ambiguous statements in the local press to prove that they are not giraffes and they can be trusted. In this case, no Russian club will not receive any compensation for their students, selected in the NHL Draft this weekend.

At the same time quietly in Sweden wins championships “Bryunes”, which shine in the young Jakub Silfverberg, Johan Larsson and Calle Yarnkruk. In Finland, the champion was “UP”, where the glittering 21-year-old Christian and Sami Vatanen Nekyuvya. They (Finns, Swedes) have a robust and clear framework for cooperation with the NHL, there is a clear hierarchy, in which players are developing and there is no xenophobia, while in Russia, we continue to condone the bessistemem each year free of losing its best young people, which are wary of “there” and often hate “here.”

This is a scheme where there are no winners, only those who lose less than others. This scheme creates an atmosphere where all hate each other.

(Above section roughly translated by Google.)

For now, Grigorenko is here to stay. For now, he’s working out with his new team mates, and all would appear that his goal (and the Sabres goal) for him to stay here for 82 (or more) games next season. If he doesn’t make the squad, he has said that he’ll go back to Patrick Roy and the Quebec Remparts. Or is that just one of those “ambiguous statements to the local press?”

After all, it was as recent as January 24th of 2010, when Grigorenko made these statements:

Do you have a hockey dream?
Grigorenko: “Sure I have. I would really like to be called to the Russian national team. And win the Olympics and the World Championships. (smiles)”

Have you already collected any trophy?
Grigorenko: “Yes, I won the Russian championship with the Moscow selects. That’s all for now. It’s not a lot for now, but I hope that more will follow.”

And what about your near perspectives? Don’t you dream about the NHL?
Grigorenko: “I haven’t really thought about the NHL yet. My main thought for now is to get into a MHL team and then to the KHL. I’m thinking about this only.”

In what KHL team would you like to play?
Grigorenko: “I don’t really know. I consider CSKA Moscow as my mother club. They grew me up as player and so I’d really like to play there, it would be a reward for my mother team. We’ll see.”

Well, at least since the draft he’s said all the right things, and is doing all the right things to indicate that he will stay – or at least wants to stay. And there’s that lingering doubt again. And it’s safe to say that same doubt, that same whisper of xenophobia, is what caused me to look for this interview in the first place.

We hope that Grigorenko is 100% committed to staying, but we can’t say for sure. Until the NHL and KHL develop a relationship that prevents players from “bolting” to other leagues, there will always be questions looming over players and prospects from that giant portion of the globe. Because of this, questions and doubts will always come with Russian players.

Just try not to think about it, and focus instead on the “I’m excited as hell to watch this kid play for the Sabres” part of your mind. That advice won’t quiet the disquiet in the backs of our minds, but it’s all we can do. Try to focus more on the excitement of his upside, rather than all those questions.

We’ll wait and see. But will we see what we want?

That question is the same there just as it is here. Sabres fans, welcome to the anxiety and unending frustration of the NHL vs. the KHL. Welcome to the leagues of xenophobes.

Go Sabres.

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Grigorenko: about that whole “Work Ethic” thing…

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Does Mikhail Grigorenko take a shift off here or there?

That had been the fully broadcasted question looming over the prospect as he headed into the draft – a possible malaise in his wheels that caused him to slide all the way to the 12th overall pick and the Buffalo Sabres.

Well, he’s our NHL property now, so before we argue the point, let’s enjoy a few highlights.

 

 

Grigorenko Howl Sabres 300x184 Grigorenko: about that whole Work Ethic thing...

His passion for the game is certainly evident when he scores a goal. And he scores a lot of goals.

 

Indeed, Grigoenko has the skill set to join the likes of Gilbert Perreault and Pierre Turgeon as the greatest picks in Sabres history. Of course, that’s a big statement, and a lot to live up to. But again, he’s got the tools.

But then there’s that nagging argument over his effort. While covered extensively, there are plenty of rebuttals to the argument, and they come from big names.

From Corey Pronman (ESPN, Hockey Prospectus):

I believe Grigorenko is the clear second-best prospect in this draft, and in some draft classes, he would have the talent level to be a first overall pick.

…I normally do not like to reference other rankings done in the public domain for reasons that should be obvious for someone who publishes their own rankings and reports. However, someone like Bob McKenzie’s rankings, whose method relies on polling NHL scouts, serves as an additional useful source to aid this column. When McKenzie polled scouts about Grigorenko in February, he was ranked second. When he polled them again in early April, he was ranked second. When Central Scouting released their mid-terms in January, their director Dan Marr called Yakupov and Grigorenko a 1A-1B situation.

…generally, Grigorenko’s output has been great.

…I had heard from for just about most of Grigorenko’s prospect career, the deficiency in that area was noted, but it was noted to not be a gaping hole that sucked the elite prospect status out of him, but just a minor weakness. A weakness that did not nullify his elite-level puck possession skills and the plays he could make with the puck and the passes he could make. Not to mention the fact he skates well and has a great frame.

…I’m not going to try and start pinpointing when the intangible questions really started, or how much his second half of the season and more specifically the second round of the QMJHL playoffs has played into Grigorenko’s perceived value. It is clear that there was an effect at least because I would not bring up an issue like this unless I felt the chatter in the hockey community has been played up to the point where what I’m saying wouldn’t be news.

Pronman had more to say about this issue in an earlier article, after ranking Girgorenko #2 in the draft (behind Yakupov, and ahead of Galchenyuk):

When you combine his puck skills and sense, though, you get the combination of tools that allow him to make “unique” plays, that after they happen, you try to remember about the last time you saw a play similar to that.

Ranking Explanation: This ranking won’t require the same amount of detail. I see Grigorenko as a better puck handler, and a much better thinker while Galchenyuk is a better skater, with a better physical game and intangibles. Outside of the difference in hockey sense—where Galchenyuk is high end—I don’t see a massive gap that could really tilt the scales in any of those differences. They are both great players, but Grigorenko has top 15-20 forward in the league upside, whereas Galchenyuk’s upside is an above-average first-line center, which in itself is tremendous, but it isn’t Grigorenko. Grigorenko’s intangibles I understand create concerns, as I’ve addressed above. I’m not promoting the fact Grigorenko goes 100%, but in a neutral environment, if you take his talent level + effort = output, over the long run, he gives enough effort level to project to deliver elite level output.

Click on the links to read those articles in full: they’re well worth your time.

NHL legend/coach Patrick Roy has sounded off on this issue as well – and he should know a lot about Grigoenko, having been his coach with the Quebec Remparts. (The following quote from Roy is translated courtesy of Google Translator.)

“Frankly, I’m upset that I hear comments on the absence of the hard work of Michael. From the first day after the decision to move in “Quebec” Grigorenko taught English.

He practiced for three hours a day, and his English is very good. He had a strong interest in becoming a player in the NHL.

Michael trained hard all the time. He needs to work on stamina, he gets tired easily, but that does not mean that the player is engaged without due diligence.

If you look at what this season has made Yakupov for “Sarnia” and that Grigorenko for “Quebec”, it is possible to conclude that Michael has made us a much stronger team.

Hopefully, people will not throw stones at him because he played in the Junior League of Quebec. Would apply to Michael as if he had played in the junior league Ontario? In my opinion, he deserves respect for what is already done, and he will cope with everything “

It could be a work ethic issue. It could be a simple stamina issue. It could be that he is simply a unique talent that makes unique plays. For now, until he proves the naysayers wrong, he is going to have to strive under a questioned reputation.

Whether that was truly earned or not, the only way to erase his reputation is put some time in on some NHL ice. The Sabres would be well off to find out – the sooner the better.

Alas, like all draft prospects, it all comes down to that old idiom, “time will tell.” Sorry Sabres fans, but we’ll have to just be patient with this one. My advice: don’t sweat it.

Just look forward to his arrival.

Go Sabres.

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Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin’ Werk, Makin’ Epiphanies

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“Werk:” Internet slang for “expression of approval, praise.”

So now you know.

Kudos to all the NHL staffers and NHL bloggers out there that made the draft a fun couple of days.

Day 1 saw the extraordinary event wherein Darcy Regier selected the Sabres’ likely #1 and #2 centers for the next ten years in Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons. Not to be overlooked, day 2 of the NHL Draft produced what could turn out to be a solid crop of prospects for the Buffalo Sabres.

Here is a quick run down of the boys selected by the Blue and Gold in rounds 2-7 (this post includes salient information and also a hearty spoonful of stupid witticisms. Proceed, but remember, Draftday is Funday – and we like to keep it light here on BSN for all the fidgety prospects out there that just got selected):

2nd Round

Jake McCabe (D): 6’1″, 201 lbs – profile

After that initial run on centers, Regier selected a solid defenseman:

McCabe projects as a solid two-way blueliner at the NHL level.  His ceiling is that of a second pairing blue liner.  McCabe has the physical tools and skills to get special teams time as both a PKer, and as a defenceman on the second unit of a PP.  We think his potential is to end up as a similar player to Carl Gunnarson of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

From there, Buffalo’s run on Centers resumed.

3rd Round

Justin Kea (C): 6’4″, 201 lbs

This kid is big, and he can be mean. He’s already building up a nice little resume at HockeyFights.com, but I’ll let him speak for himself here:

“I think I’m a good strong two-way player, and I’m pretty good defensively,” Kea said before the draft. “And I think if people watch me they can see that.”

And from the scouts:

“I think somebody’s going to give him a shot, because 6-foot-4, 211, good skating forwards don’t grow on trees,” scout Ryan Yessie of Hockey Prospect said. “You don’t get guys like that that come around too often.”

justin kea sabres 254x300 Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin Werk, Makin Epiphanies

Of course he didn’t “grow from trees.” He IS A TREE. And what is going to fall from this tree if he makes the NHL? Gloves, baby. Gloves.

 *Disclaimer: I am totally against fighting in the NHL. That being said, his “scorecard” merits his toughness and his capacity as a guy who, well, won’t let teams run his goaltender.

*****

After this selection, I finally had this epiphany:

NHL94 Glorydays Tweet 300x54 Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin Werk, Makin Epiphanies

Did somebody just say “The Ray/May/Sweeney line?” Slow skating, but vicious in the pixellated blood-spilling department. Add in Gord Donnelly and Ken Sutton on D – now that was a drinkin’ man’s group of five. Good times.

So there was that fun. Nothing like a College/Genny Cream flashback to spice up the Twitter.

*****

4th Round 

The Sabres did not have a selection here, having lost it to the Islanders in the trade that brought us the negotiating rights to Christian Ehrhoff. The Isles took Loic Leduc, and that there is likely the last time you’ll read his name. We win. Moving on.

5th Round

Another epiphany (concerning the Sabres’ run on centers):

*****

Bobby Ryan Tweet 300x62 Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin Werk, Makin Epiphanies

Wait and see.

*****

Logan Nelson (C) 6’1″, 178 lbs.

The Sabres’ scouts had met with this pivot, so this selection was of no big surprise.

Logan Nelson Sabres 300x163 Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin Werk, Makin Epiphanies

Maybe just a little surprise for the experts at “Hockey’s Future.” Seriously now, 0.0? What the what? Get some interns and fill in the blanks for draft day.

Per the above link, Nelson was ranked 73rd in the draft, and the Sabres snapped him up with the 133rd pick. We win, again. Moving on.

6th Round

Linus Ullmark (G) 6’3″, 198 lbs.

Bill Hoppe summed up Ullmark for all the casual fans out there on Twitter, while we all scrambled for some info on this kid.

Ullmark Sabres Tweet 300x169 Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin Werk, Makin Epiphanies

For all the casual Internet users out there, using Google Chrome, right click on the page and select “translate to English.” The link I provided Bill was of no real statistical value, but was a good read on his demeanor.

- Nervous, not at all, this feels just inspiring, says 18-year-old goalkeeper Linus Ullmark without trembling in her voice.

MoDo is normally the ordinary second in the bag, Anton Forsberg, is the national team and plays the JVM during the Christmas and New Year holidays.Therefore they picked up Linus Ullmark in place and he really likes what’s up:

- Of course it’s fun to train and now play with the first team. They’re the guys you had as their idols while growing up, says Linus.

We meet Linus Ullmark in Fjällräven Center for MoDo last training session before the first team short julvilan. He laughs loudly and frequently, and it shows him that he really enjoys the position.

Again, not much of value statistically there, but you get some insight there that stats can’t provide. In any event, he’ll be a part of the complicated puzzle that will be the post-apocalyptic (or glorious, depending on which side of the fence you are yelling from) Post Ryan Miller Era.

Also, his penchant for “laughing loudly and frequently” brings back memories of a certain former Sabres netminder that we all know and love…

martin biron Sabres 218x300 Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin Werk, Makin Epiphanies

Marty!

I know. There will never be another Marty Biron. Still, we might get enlightened on a lot of Swedish humor if Ullmark makes it in between the pipes at the FNC. Far more importantly, “The Goalie Guild” certainly thinks highly of him:

Goalie Guild Tweet 300x60 Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin Werk, Makin Epiphanies

And that is good enough for me. The GG is very deeply immersed in all things goaltending. Check the site out sometime – it’ll be well worth your time.

7th Round:

The 7th round brought Buffalo 2 picks, which made for a nice “two picks in the 1st” “two picks in the 7th” bookend set. Here’s what they did with them:

Brady Austin (D) 6’4″, 230 lbs

Brady paused the trend of “Take all of the Big Centers” from the Sabres’ draft table. He hails from Bobcaygeon, so Tragically Hip fans will be clamoring for this kid and his namesake soundtrack to make the big leagues, and soon (get ready, #SabreTunes).

Brady Austin Tweet 300x45 Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin Werk, Makin Epiphanies

A fact that I was quick to point out.

John Vogl Tweet 300x50 Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin Werk, Makin Epiphanies

…and one that Vogl was quick to steal.

To set the record straight: I did tweet this glorious bit of intensely important Hip-related info a good 30-45 seconds before Vogl got his off. But then, he included a link to the song, so I’ll call a tie here. Besides, we’re all just a series of ones and zeros on this crazy Internet thing ( #ZenPower).

I think that was just another epiphany.

Anyway, Austin had spent some time playing forward for the Erie Otters. Save that in your trivia bank, you just might thank me some day. Next, the Sabres selected -

Judd Peterson (C), 6′,190 lbs.

In perhaps the most amazing stat of the day, “Die by the Blade” reported this:

He scored 47 goals on just 52 shots – that’s a 92.2% shooting percentage!

That has got to be a typo.

Hopefully not.

Peterson’s late birthday (September 27) got him to thinking that, if passed over in this draft, that he would go in the top three rounds in the 2013 draft. According to that linked article, he was also a finalist for “Mr. Hockey” last winter, which is a pretty big deal in Michigan – a hot bed for hockey growth and development.

Let’s hope he was right in his self-assessment, as this pick may have been a real steal.

The day thusly ended, I’ll leave you with my finest epiphany of the day. I know it’s a good one, because, as we all know, 30+ retweets on Twitter transforms any moronic thought into absolute fact. Enjoy:

Girgensons is Scary Tweet 227x300 Sabres Draft, Day 2: Doin Werk, Makin Epiphanies

Go Sabres.

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Regier “Trades Up”

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So,  technically, Darcy Regier traded Paul Gaustad for Zemgus Girgensons.

Wow.

This another way to define “trading up” (as in the like-named new reality show): in order to get something that you want, you trade something that you have for something of greater value, then swap what you got for something else of greater value, and continue until you’ve got what you want. Start with a rusty old Radio Flyer wagon and eventually wind up with a used Harley Davidson.

Radio Flyer Paul Gaustad 284x300 Regier Trades Up

No offense, Goose. Also, “ #SadHonk.”

In this case, Regier sent Gaustad (and a 4th round pick in 2013) to Nashville for the Predators’ first round pick (which turned out to be the 21st overall selection,  after Nashville’s season ended). Next, Regier traded that pick (along with the 42nd overall pick) to Calgary for the 14th pick, and turned that into Zemgus Girgensons.

After all of this, the Sabres still have a 2nd round pick. While trading away the 42nd pick, they still have the 44th, due to some more wheeling and dealing. The Flames’ initial 2nd rounder went to Buffalo when Regier “traded up” on June 25, 2011, when he sent Chris Butler and Paul Byron to Calgary in exchange for Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik and what is now the 44th pick in the draft.

As it all stands today, Regier took a “Goose” and traded up for a “Latvian Locomotive.”

Oh yea, he also had the good fortune to nab Mikhail Grigorenko with the 12th pick.

Not a bad day. Who said Darcy can’t swing a trade or draft well?

Click on the above links for full profiles of these two studs. If profiles are too much for you, then let’s talk NHL comparables. From said profiles, Girgensons’ NHL comparables are Ryan Kesler and Jonathan Toews. Grigorenko compares to a “Joe Thornton/Alex Kovalev/Evgeny Malkin mix.”

Commence salivation.

Go Sabres.

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