Mikhail Grigorenko and Martin Frk are two Europeans who have made the trip across the pond to play in the QMJHL and both are expected to go in the first round of the 2012 NHL draft in Pittsburgh. That is about all the two young phenoms have in common. The two are very different players experiencing very different seasons.
Mikhail Grigorenko is a 1994 born Russian with great size and skill and is currently playing for the Quebec Remparts. He’s a left hand shooting center that will make an NHL team lucky to have him one day. At 6’2 191 lbs, he is very difficult to knock off the puck and skates very well for a player of his size. His soft hands are second to none and he can score from anywhere on the ice. When he’s not scoring himself he’s setting up his teammates as he makes his teammates better players by controlling the pace of the game and making great tape to tape passes and taking key faceoffs winning more than he loses.
Some people questioned how he would adapt to playing in North America but he has shown no signs of discomfort. The 17-year-old has dominated the QMJHL so far as he currently sits in top 10 in goals and points and is showing no signs of letting up. Grigorenko will be battling fellow Russian Nail Yakupov for the 1st overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and his size might just give him the advantage he needs to be the first pick. Regardless of where he is drafted, one thing is for sure – there will be no shortage of teams coveting the big center this summer in Pittsburgh.
Frk is now in his 2nd QMJHL season but despite his familiarity with the league, Frk has had a rocky start to his sophomore campaign. That’s not to say he isn’t finally turning the page on a forgettable first half, however. Frk suffered a serious concussion during the pre-season and has only managed to get back into the lineup on a full-time basis at the beginning of January. Listed at 6’0” 198lbs, Frk isn’t huge, but he plays a lot bigger. Frk has the ability to finish checks and play with a high level of grit that makes him extremely versatile and valuable.
After finishing last season with 50 points in 62 games, Frk will be monitored closely to see if he can elevate his offensive production during the 2nd half of the QMJHL season (14p in 18gp as of writing). Frk will be at a modest disadvantage as he was unable to practice or train extensively during his recovery and subsequently made a controversial decision to skip the World Juniors and Halifax’s games over the winter break, instead electing to return home to the Czech Republic to rest up.
While the decision was heavily scrutinized, it appears that Frk may have made the right choice. Frk notched 7 goals and 6 assists during the month of January and has shown some strong two-way play which will go a long way towards quelling some concerns over his game. Once destined as a surefire 1st round pick, Frk is still right in the mix but he’ll need to finish strong this season to secure a spot in the Top 30 next summer.
In a year that is light on high-end talent from the QMJHL, these two European forwards will carry the most hype heading into the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh and will continue to showcase their skills as the QMJHL season gears up for the playoff grind.