BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — So long as center Mikhail Grigorenko remains on the Buffalo Sabres roster, it doesn't matter where the top prospect is forced to sit in the team's fancy, wood-paneled locker room.
For now, that spot is off in the corner, near the fridge and whiteboard, where Grigorenko's No. 25 nameplate is perched precariously on a narrow ledge. It's a makeshift "stall" that amounts to an armless black chair and a metal computer monitor stand, on which the Russian-born player has just enough room for two helmets and his team-logoed toiletries bag.
"At least I have a chair," the 18-year-old said, smiling after practice Wednesday. "It's better than to sit somewhere in another room. At least I'm here with the guys. It's an honor to be here in the locker room."
The setup is temporary, and a reminder that his spot on the team is not yet secured. That won't be determined until this week at the earliest, when the Sabres set their roster before opening the regular season hosting Philadelphia on Sunday.
By then, Grigorenko is hoping to have showed enough of his play-making potential during a four-day training camp to have earned the opportunity to land a more permanent spot.
"Yeah, that's my goal," he said, "to have a real stall in this locker room."
Selected 12th overall in the NHL draft in June, Grigorenko is the only player without previous NHL experience the Sabres invited to camp. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he's shown flashes of his smooth-skating and deft stick-handling skills this week centering a line alongside veterans Steve Ott and Ville Leino.
The question for the Sabres is whether a one-week glimpse is enough to project how he'll do outside of practice, and without the benefit of a preseason.
"It's really the toughest question to answer because you'd love to see him in preseason games," coach Lindy Ruff said. "You'd get to see him under the gun. And we don't have that luxury."
That leaves the Sabres with a few options. They can return Grigorenko to the Patrick Roy-coached Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for one more season of schooling. Another is keeping Grigorenko for what would amount to a five-game tryout before deciding whether to keep or demote him.
"Yeah, there's a million ways we can slice it," Ruff said. "We'll make that decision at the end of this week, and if we feel he's ready, that he can help us win hockey games, he'll in all likelihood be here."
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