BUFFALO, N.Y. – Buffalo Sabres prospect Mikhail Grigorenko won’t report to the Quebec Remparts after Buffalo assigned its former first round pick to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club on Saturday.
Grigorenko’s agent, Jay Grossman, confirmed that the centre won’t report, but didn’t provide additional details in a text message to The Associated Press.
Grigorenko posted a statement to his Facebook page, explaining his refusal to accept the demotion.
“I just want to apologized (sic) for the situation going on right now,” Grigorenko wrote. “We just need to find a place for me where I can develop and be the best hockey player I can be.”
The Sabres would likely prefer the 19-year-old Grigorenko play for its Rochester AHL affiliate, but an agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League doesn’t allow teenagers to play in the AHL.
Buffalo tried to send Grigorenko to Rochester on a conditioning assignment in November, but the NHL denied the request.
Grigorenko has dominated in juniors, posting 139 points in two seasons with Quebec, including 30 goals in 33 games last season.
His statement expressed gratitude for the opportunity in North America. Grigorenko thanked the organizations in Quebec and Buffalo and said he loves being a member of the Sabres.
“Now I would just ask all of you guys to respect me and the time I’m taking to think about my career,” Grigorenko said. “It might be hard to understand but it is even harder for a teenager.”
Grigorenko recently returned from the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Malmo, Sweden, where he lead Russia to the bronze medal with eight points in seven games.
“He was a little bit upset I imagine, but this is non-negotiable,” said interim head coach Ted Nolan. “It’s one of those things that has to be done.”
But Grigorenko has struggled to adapt to the NHL in parts of two seasons, with just eight points in 43 career games since Buffalo selected him with 12th pick of the 2012 draft.
“You look at this draft year, there are only two in the year who are playing and one’s having a little trouble,” Nolan said, adding, “Development is crucial.”
“If he wants it enough and he wants to be here, then he’ll work at it.”
The Sabres also announced that leading scorer Cody Hodgson has been activated from the injured reserve, giving the improving team another boost in its quest to escape the bottom of the league’s standings.
New Buffalo general manager Tim Murray has also recalled defenceman Brayden McNabb from Buffalo’s AHL affiliate in Rochester and sent defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen and left wing Johan Larsson down to Rochester.
Buffalo is 6-4-3 since Dec. 10 as Nolan has started to turn around a team that opened the year with the worst start in franchise history.
Hodgson is tied for the team lead with 8 goals and is first on the Sabres with 11 assists and 19 points, but has missed 10 of Buffalo’s last 13 games.
Both Hodgson (hand) and centre Ville Leino (lower body) are expected to return for Sunday’s game in Washington. Leino has just six points in 26 games this season.
Ristolainen also starred in the World Junior tournament, scoring the overtime game-winning goal for Finland in the Final against Sweden. The eighth overall pick of the 2013 draft has one goal in 19 games for Buffalo and has not played poorly.
The Sabres started the year 4-15-1, prompting the firing of general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Ron Rolston on Nov. 13. The same day, Buffalo owner Terry Pegula hired Pat LaFontaine as team president, who installed Nolan as interim head coach and began a search for the team’s new general manager.
Murray was hired Thursday as the seventh general manager in franchise history, and LaFontaine also tabbed Hockey Hall of Fame member Craig Patrick as a special adviser.
Nolan was asked about rumours that Murray was prepared to remove the interim tag from his head coaching job.
“I hope he does, but it’s not one of my things I’m thinking about,” Nolan said. :It’s trying to get this team better right now and coaching this team to the best of my ability. Whatever happens down the road will happen. I feel confident in my ability but we’ll see.”
“We had brief discussions about it but not necessarily directly at it.”
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.