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Who is Mikhail Sergachev? He’s good.

The Tampa Bay Lightning traded for Mikhail Sergachev hoping that he is a key piece for the future. But just how good is he?

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2016 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It’s been an eventful few weeks in the life of 18-year old Mikhail Sergachev. After helping to lead the Windsor Spitfires to the Memorial Cup Championship, it took only three weeks for the course of his hockey career to change significantly. On Thursday afternoon, the blue-chip prospect was acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Jonathan Drouin.

Lightning fans are all too aware of Drouin and his controversial tenure with the hockey team. But who exactly is Sergachev? What did the Bolts get for the player that many believed was their most valuable trade chip?

It was less than two years ago that Mikhail Sergachev was selected 6th overall in the CHL Import Draft. Coming to the OHL at 17 with next to no ability to speak English, Sergachev quickly became one of the best defensemen in all of junior hockey.

Sergachev is good, really good, and the fact that Steve Yzerman was able to pry him away from Montreal should be seen as a huge success for the Lightning organization. Sergachev is viewed by some as the best defensive prospect in all of hockey - and he doesn’t even turn 19 until later this month.

Some will be disappointed that the team traded away someone as gifted as Drouin without getting a known commodity in return. It won’t take Mikhail Sergachev long to change their minds. He is going to be a star in the NHL — it’s a matter of when, not if.

Developing Quickly

After coming to the OHL, Sergachev became a star on the ice while teaching himself English off of it. In a new country, playing a new style of game, the young Russian proved that he was willing to put in the work to succeed. “"I swear, he was almost self-taught," Michelle Reid, Sergachev’s billet mother told the Montreal Gazette. "He did have an English teacher that worked with him weekly for maybe an hour, or two hours at most. The kid just honestly worked his butt off."

Sergachev knew that if he wanted to get to the NHL as quickly as possible, he was going to have to learn quickly - and he definitely did that.

As a rookie with Windsor, Sergachev won just about every award he could. He was a first team All-Rookie, first team All-Star, and won the Frank Kaminsky Trophy for the league’s Most Outstanding Defender - something that is almost unheard of for a rookie.

Sergachev entered the 2016 NHL Entry Draft perceived by many as the best defenseman in the class. He was selected four picks after the Canucks drafted Olli Juolevi - something that Vancouver will likely regret. Sergachev then spent this season proving that he is the better of the prospect of the two, and should be mentioned as one of the best prospects overall. Thomas Chabot, Travis Sanheim, Jake Bean, the list defenders that you can even put in the category with Sergachev is very very small.

What Does He See in Himself?

“I’ve heard a lot about the organization and they play fast hockey and they play offensive hockey,” Sergachev added. “They have some great players and they have a great coaching staff and management…I feel like I had enough juniors and I played a lot in juniors and I learned a lot in those two years. I feel like this is my time to play in the NHL, and I’ll do my best and I’ll play my best to make the Lightning roster.”

He is a kid that just genuinely loves the game of hockey and wants nothing more than to succeed at the highest level. “I don’t know what to say, it’s just so cool, it’s the NHL”, Sergachev told Jeff Marek on his draft day.

What Do the Scouts See?

“Windsor Spitfires defenceman Mikhail Sergachev can do it all. He’s an excellent skater with the quickness to jump into the attack and the requisite footwork to operate in tight areas and beat pressure. He has a very good shot and the smarts to get into offensive spots where he can make a contribution. He also can deliver body checks that make life unpleasant for opponents.” - Craig Button, TSN Director of Scouting

“A dominant two-way defenceman whose tenacity and competitiveness characterize his style of play. Plays with a poise and confidence that facilitates his creativity with the puck as well as split-second decision making. Naturally, fluid skater who is always looking to be engaged, if not the center, of each unfolding play. All-in-all, a diligent two-way defenceman who excels at finding ways to be a difference-maker in games.” - Matias Strozyk, Elite Prospects

"A big minute-munching blue liner who has that nice combination of size and wheels that make NHL scouts take notice. He is a feisty, mobile defenseman that can beat you with his quick first step or a solid pass. Shows nice composure when pressed in his own zone and does not panic but instead skates with the puck or will just rim it out safely. Plays it physical stepping up for the big hit and likes to physically eliminate opponents from danger areas in the defensive zone. Has a strong point shot and the ability to run a power play. High NHL upside with this kid." - Future Considerations

Is He Ready?

If you ask the player himself, Mikhail Sergachev is ready for the NHL. If you ask Steve Yzerman, I suspect he’d say that he’s cautiously optimistic.

Sergachev’s point-per-game offensive production was nearly identical this season to his rookie campaign. While he didn’t improve statistically, those who watched him play in the OHL saw a player that looked too good for his competition on many nights. Playing mostly with undrafted 21-year old Jalen Chatfield, Sergachev drove the play on just about every shift, all season long. On a team that struggled with injuries all season, Sergachev was asked to play huge minutes in just about every situation imaginable. He was Windsor’s best defenseman both offensively and defensively and finished the season with one of the best 5v5 Goal For% relative to his teammates in the league.

Personally, as an observer of the OHL, I think Sergachev is ready to be a regular in the NHL. On a good team like the Bolts, he will have the ability to be brought along slowly. The team will have the luxury of playing Sergachev on the third pair with the potential of second-unit powerplay duty. That said, there’s no guarantee the coaching staff will feel the same way, though I’d put money on the fact that Sergachev comes into training camp and blows Jon Cooper away with his abilities.

The issue becomes that Sergachev was drafted out of the CHL, and therefore has to be returned to Windsor for an entire season if he’s not ready to start the season with the Bolts. This will be his 19-year old season, so he is ineligible to play in the AHL - even though that might be the best place for his development.

Highlights

Mikhail Sergachev Career Statistics

Season Team League GP G A TP PIM
Season Team League GP G A TP PIM
2014-2015 Irbis Kazan MHL 25 2 6 8 18
Russia U17 WHC-17 6 1 0 1 8
Russia U17 EYOF 3 0 8 8 0
Russia U17 (all) International-Jr 17 3 12 15 20
Russia U18 WJC-18 5 0 0 0 0
Russia U18 (all) International-Jr 4 1 3 4 2
2015-2016 Windsor Spitfires OHL 67 17 40 57 56
Russia U18 WJC-18 5 0 0 0 8
2016-2017 Windsor Spitfires M-Cup 4 1 3 4 2
Windsor Spitfires OHL 50 10 33 43 71
Montréal Canadiens NHL 4 0 0 0 0
Russian Selects U20 Jr Super Series 1 0 0 0 0
Russia U20 WJC-20 7 1 0 1 4