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?
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.
‘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:
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
- Nail Yakupov on being a Muslim, Don Cherry, the draft combine and playing in Canada
- The true face of Leo Komarov
- Interview with Yakupov/Galchenyuk agent (and Hockey Hall of Famer) Igor Larionov
- Nail Yakupov: in his own words
- Interview with Oilers prospect Kristians Pelss
- Interview with Oilers prospect Martin Marincin
- Interview with Leafs prospect Greg McKegg