PITTSBURGH — Mikhail Grigorenko was relieved. "Now I can kind of relax. This is one of the last interviews."
The Russian center sat in the interview room at the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, taken No. 12 overall by the Buffalo Sabres. Once considered as a player who could go first overall, Grigorenko saw his stock drop and questions ranging from his desire to play in the NHL to his actual age follow him like a black cloud.
Again, he was asked about whether he was actually 18 years old, answering "I don't know, I never heard about this."
But questions about his desire to play in the NHL were answered by a beaming smile and excitement about being a Buffalo Sabres prospect.
"I was a little bit nervous about the team who drafted me. But I'm happy it was this team," he said.
"I had a feeling that probably they would draft me. They were interested in me. I talked to them a lot during the season, and during the combines."
One team most draft experts assumed would be interested in Grigorenko actually wasn't — the Washington Capitals, who haven't shied away from taking Russian prospects in the past and picked one spot ahead of Buffalo, taking Filip Forsberg at No. 11.
"I never talked to them," said Grigorenko, who said the Capitals inability to lure Evgeny Kuznetsov from Russia after drafting him in 2010 made them pass on him.
"I knew for sure they wouldn't draft me, because they didn't sign Kuznetsov They already have good centers. They didn't need me."
Capitals GM George McPhee said Grigorenko wasn't ranked on the team's draft board top 20. "Our scouts didn't really have him that high up. I was really trying to get them to focus on the top 20 guys in this draft, and he wasn't there for us," he said.
Instead, Grigorenko is a Sabre … even if he doesn't know all that much about Buffalo.
"Alex Mogilny played here. He was from my city. Dominik Hasek was there. It's a city on Niagara Falls," he said.
What he knows for sure about Buffalo: That he's happy to have been drafted by the Sabres, and happy with his new threads.
"All the time, I think the Buffalo Sabres jersey is, like, one of the most beautiful jerseys in the League," he said.
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