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Tampa Bay Lightning Top 25 Under 25, #3 Mikhail Sergachev

As a rookie, Sergachev showed he could handle life as an NHL defenseman. The next step is to see him excel in the NHL.

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Raw Charge community. Ten writers and 106 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2017 in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked, plus Honorable Mentions.

Mikhail Sergachev didn’t make last years ranking due to the staff at Raw Charge having little time to gather much information on him in the wake of the Jonathan Drouin trade (we had already done our rankings for the most part at that juncture). We did receive information from our lovely friends at Habs Eyes on the Prize that Sergachev was the real deal, and that we should be very excited for him.

Excitement was definitely there for Sergachev once he stepped on the ice for opening night at Amalie Arena to start the 2017-2018 NHL regular season. He didn’t post a Calder Trophy-worthy season from the backend, but he was still an exciting player for Lightning fans to watch: a smooth-skating two-way defender who has the tools to be a top two defender on any team in the league.

The Lightning coaching staff was confident Sergachev would play his way into the defensive rotation and they were proved right as the young Russian impressed every time he was given the opportunity to. Overall, Sergachev averaged 15:22 of ice-time during the regular season and was paired with veteran Anton Stralman for the majority of the season.

This setup was perfect for the young defender to gradually feel his way into the NHL. This isn’t to say it was all sunshine for him. He did have quite a few nights where he saw less than 11 minutes a night, and was scratched for two consecutive games in the middle of the season for some boneheaded penalties. These were bumps that everyone expected to occur, and both the team and player navigated through them easily.

Things changed once general manager Steve Yzerman made a last minute trade at the deadline to bring in J.T. Miller and Ryan McDonagh into the fold. This made Sergachev the odd man out in the top four of the defense, but he didn’t allow that to slow him down and easily meshed with new partner Braydon Coburn on the third pairing. There was some worry among fans that Coburn’s struggles this season could harm Sergachev, but their pairing remained a strong third unit that the Lightning could utilize throughout the season.

Regardless, before I dive into any kind of analysis, lets take a trip down memory lane and relive some of Sergachev’s best highlights of the season shall we?

First Point

Yes, this goal was scored by Nikita Kucherov, and yes it looks like Sergachev doesn’t touch the puck. However, according to the NHL, this was Mikhail Sergachev’s first NHL point. Not the most memorable, but hey, a point is a point. Bonus, it was the season opener too!

First Goal

This one can’t be questioned! An NHL player never forgets their first goal in the big leagues, and even though Sergachev’s first wasn’t a mesmerizing one, it was still a joy to see him score his first goal (I just wish it was at home). Bonus, this was also his first game-winning goal of his career.

First Multi-Goal Game

You know, why not have your first multi-goal game too, Sergachev? Go on bud, you score, we cheer, you celebrate with the team, and we’re all happy. Just like it was always supposed to be!

First Power-Play Goal

What’s this? Two days later against the defending Stanley Cup champions and Sergachev scores another goal? Yep, that’s right. Here, Sergachev scored his first power-play goal of his career. I love the stick tap that he does prior to Steven Stamkos passing it. I can only imagine what was going through his head (IN MOTHER RUSSIA YOU PASS PUCK TO OPEN MAN IN SLOT!).

Side note: I miss Vladislav Namestnikov

First Playoff Point

Ah, yes, the playoffs. Where the pressure is cranked into overdrive and I don’t get to sleep until three in the morning—great times. Regardless, here’s Sergachev’s first playoff point—in his first playoff game! Lots of firsts for the Russian, eh? I’m not totally sure he meant for that shot to go wide, but hey, whatever works.

First Playoff Goal

I’ve watched all of Sergachev’s goals from this season and only one other makes me go “Wow”. Unfortunately, that other goal doesn’t have much significance in the grand scheme of things (I’m gonna link it anyway because I can), but this one does! Say hello to the beauty that was Sergachev’s first playoff goal in the NHL. God, it’s a beauty.

I’m Linking This Because It’s So Good

Here’s the other goal that just makes me go “Wow”. That’s Nikolaj Ehlers covering Sergachev. Ehlers is no slouch of player, and Sergachev just skates him in a circle and whips this laser off the post and past Vezina nominee Connor Hellebuyck.

First Playoff Power-Play Goal

This goal will be remembered more for the chaos that ensued afterward. Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask pleaded with the officials about his skate blade dislodging itself from his skate (which impeded his ability to move around). Admittedly, I’ve had this same thing happen and it’s near impossible to do anything. So, I can understand Rask’s frustration here. It’s still hilarious to watch, though, and besides this is a Sergachev piece and it was his goal. LET HIM HAVE HIS JOY, TUUKKA! YOU WON THIS GAME ANYWAY!

Additionally, as a funny little statistical note; in the 34 games that Sergachev recorded a point, the Lightning went 26-7-1, and 6-0-1 when he recorded a multi-point game.

Alright, I think that’s enough of memory lane for one article. Let’s move on shall we?

Ranking

Fittingly, the readers and writers put the Russian defender third in the rankings, and this feels just right for Sergachev. Scoring 31 points and 9 goals for any defensemen is a solid season, but to do it as a rookie? That’s outstanding. Add in his two goals and five points in the postseason and there’s nothing more we could’ve asked for out of Mikhail Sergachev.

He’s been linked in some rumors as a key piece in a trade for Ottawa Senators defender Erik Karlsson, but for the time being he is a member of the Lightning and he is our wonderful young defenseman that we love and cherish.

Sergachev was heavily sheltered this season and once he is exposed to heavier minutes his play will dip. I know and understand this. However, given that Sergachev improved as the season progressed, I have little doubt he will be ready for that challenge. For all we know, he could supplant Stralman and McDonagh on the depth chart by the end of next season (ok, probably not, but I’m being hyper optimistic here).

Nonetheless, get ready for more of this wonderful smile next season!

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