A somewhat mysterious injury for a top Florida Panthers prospect has been cleared up, with Grigori Denisenko confirmed to have suffered a broken kneecap back on January 12th while playing with the Charlotte Checkers. The Checkers announced the injury today. The injury occurred in what would prove to be an incredible effort from the Russian winger, who broke his kneecap on a blocked shot, but continued to play, scoring the game winner. Denisenko would ultimately have surgery on his knee, but appears to be in good spirits and confident that he will be ready to go in time for Florida Panthers training camp.
Florida’s first-round pick in 2018, 15th overall, Denisenko’s development has not exactly been meteoric, however the team still has high hopes for him. Prior to being drafted, Denisenko was a standout for Yaroslavl in the KHL as a part of their development program and on Russia’s junior teams. After being selected by Florida, Denisenko made his KHL debut with Yaroslavl, though he didn’t take the steps forward Florida, and Yaroslavl, might have hoped, recording just 18 points in 63 games over two seasons. The forward made the jump to North America ahead of the 2020-21 season, but due to injuries and the COVID-19 situation, he was limited to just 45 AHL games and 8 NHL games over two seasons. In his limited time, Denisenko was solid, putting up 27 points in those 45 AHL games, and an impressive four assists in seven games in his NHL debut in 2020-21. Once healthy, if Denisenko hopes to have an impactful NHL career, he will have to continue to take steps forward in his production, especially if he wants to appear regularly in an incredibly deep Panthers lineup. The good news for Denisenko on that front is, with the flat salary cap and the Panthers being near the ceiling, they will need affordable pieces that they can rely on, and one of their top prospects may be a solution.