Top 25 Under 25, #5: Mikhail Sergachev is poised to break into the NHL as a 19-year-old

The Bolts’ newest blue line prospect believes he has what it takes to stick in the NHL for a full season.

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the RawCharge writing staff. Four writers, plus a special guest, 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.

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Steve Yzerman got the trade winds going around the NHL when he shipped out budding superstar Jonathan Drouin to the Montréal Canadiens for prized defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev. With the trade, the Lightning didn’t necessarily get better as a team right now, but Yzerman envisioned this move helping the team compete for the next decade.

Sergachev was originally drafted by the Habs with the ninth-overall selection in 2016, and after joining the team out of training camp, he was given a four-game trial in the big leagues before he was returned to his junior team, the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.

Sergachev is an offensive threat who can move the puck smoothly, similar to Victor Hedman. Although he is a lefty, Tampa Bay could soon have one of the most formidable D-corps in the East, spearheaded on the left side by Hedman and Sergachev for quite literally the next 10-15 years, and eventually by Cal Foote on the right.

Mikhail plays with a tremendous amount of poise and adds a booming shot to go along with his skating ability. His accouterments were on full display at the Memorial Cup this past May, when the Lightning scouting staff got an up close and personal view of his game. He put up 1 goal and 3 assists in 4 games in the tournament, eventually ousting the Tampa Bay Otters— oh, I mean, Erie Otters, 4-3 in the Final.

Sergachev has been a member of Team Russia’s World Juniors club in each of the past three years—both the U-17 and U-18 tournaments during the 2014-15 season, the U-18 tournament during the 2015-16 season, and the U-20 tournament during the 2016-17 season.

His skill is undeniable, and if he weren’t on a team with Victor Hedman, he’d likely be playing the most amount of minutes on defense for his club. Having a teammate like Hedman will give the Lightning two elite defensemen in just a few short years, once Sergachev comes into his own.

With the logjam on defense and Sergachev not being AHL-eligible yet, it will be interesting to see if he makes the team out of camp. If he were to do so, the Lightning would have 8 NHL-caliber defensemen. Sergachev will either have to play games in the NHL or be sent back to Windsor of the OHL. There is no point in stalling his development by having him serve popcorn in the press box.

I’d really love to see the Lightning give Sergachev a chance to play this year, as all signs point to him making the club. He had a great showing at development camp and would provide the Lightning defensive corps with some puck-moving ability, which is desperately needed.

Fast-forward to the 50-second mark of this video to see one of Sergachev’s booming slap shots that Lightning fans will come to be accustomed to: