Sunday, October 17, 2004

Igor Grigorenko Update

After recovering from a terrible car accident on May 16, 2003, Igor Grigorenko [Игорь Григоренко] is struggling to get back in top form. The crash left Grigorenko with a broken left thigh bone and two fractures in left shin bone. In addition, complications arose and he developed a fat embolism in his left lung, which is a potentially fatal condition. Said his agent, Mark Lapush:
"They gave him a 10-percent chance to be alive, and he made it. He's feeling good. He said, 'Mark, trust me, I'm going to play hockey. I'm going to play for Detroit.'"
Grigorenko, 21, was the Wings' first choice (62nd overall) in the 2001 draft. After a quick recovery and bill of good health, he was able to attend the Wings' training camp in September 2003. He then joined up with Lada Togliatti and played for their farm team in Russia's third-tier league. But Grigorenko has had trouble moving up the development ladder in Russia. After going pointless in 11 games at Togliatti's first-tier, Russian Elite League level, Grigorenko was sent down to the second-tier, Russian High League farm team for Togliatti last week. Players on the first-tier team include Viktor Kozlov, Alexander Semin, Dainius Zubrus, and former Wing Yuri Butsayev. So Grigorenko should be able to hold his own on Togliatti before expecting to make the Wings. Togliatti coach, Petr Vorobiev, on Grigorenko's play of late:
"He doesn't have the necessary conditioning yet and his movements are inferior--the effects of the accident are visible. We sent him down to the farm club, and it influenced him a little, because he thinks that he is already back, normal, but there is nothing normal here."
Those words are not very encouraging, but at least Grigorenko has a coach who isn't afraid to say it like it is. In the 2002-2003 season with Togliatti, Grigorenko was poised to make the Wings roster, notching 19 goals and 11 assists through 47 games. But since the May 2003 accident, Grigorenko has yet to establish himself on the first-tier, Russian Elite League level, much less excel there. The Wings felt that Grigorenko should stay in Russia during the lockout this season, and make it a goal to play in North America during the 2005-2006 season. Hopefully Grigorenko can get back at the level he was at before the accident, so we can see a Grigorenko/Zetterberg/Datsyuk line during the 2005-2006 season.


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