If Windsor Spitfires’ defenceman Mikhail Sergachev isn’t a household name yet, he will be by the end of the upcoming NHL Draft.
Originally from Nizhnekamsk, Russia, the 98-born Sergachev was selected by the Spitfires sixth overall in the 2015 CHL Import Draft. While he wasn’t known to many Spits’ fans, his credentials perked their ears. He played the 2014-15 season with Irbis Kazan, located in Kazan, Tatarstan Republic, Russia, in the Minor Hockey League, where he had eight points in 25 games.
It was his 15 points in 17 games for the Russian Under-17 team, though, that really stood out. The offence was there, the defence was there, and the size was there, standing 6’2.5” and just a shade under 200lbs.
Sergachev Fits Right In
Sergachev made an immediate impact, not only on the Spitfires and their fans, but the entire league. Windsor was planning on leaning heavily on veteran blue-liner Trevor Murphy to carry their offence from the back-end this past season. However, Murphy made the AHL, which left a gaping hole offensively. Sergachev quickly made up for that.
The smooth skater is a force in his own end, playing a simple, yet rugged, in-your-face game. He left many opponents looking up at the ceiling when they didn’t realize how hard he could hit. Not one to show emotion, Sergachev came away with a straight face, then took the puck up the ice for a scoring chance. He was also one of the steadiest defencemen on the roster in his own end, consistently frustrating forwards with his positioning and stick work.
Offensively, Sergachev is as strong as they come. Do you need an end-to-end rush to get the fans out of their seat? He can do that. His speed and size make him difficult to touch, and his wrist shot handcuffed goaltenders all season. It’s tough to project whether those coast-to-coast rushes will translate well in the pro game, as defenders are much more likely to stop him, but his creativity will certainly adjust over time.
What about a power-play quarterback who knows what he’s doing? Sergachev scored 17 goals and 40 assists in 67 regular season games. Of those, eight goals and 23 assists were on the power-play. Whether it was precision passing, or a shot that goaltenders hated, Sergachev was a menace and fans loved it.
Coming into the NHL Entry Draft, Sergachev is rated anywhere from eighth to 10th, depending on what list you’re looking at. His biggest competitors for top defencemen are Sarnia’s Jakob Chychrun and London’s Olli Juolevi. Both Chychrun and Juolevi are in the same boat as Sergachev in the ratings; wide-range, but roughly in the top 10. Sergachev makes a strong case to be ahead of both of them come draft day.
The Right NHL Spot
Where could Sergachev go? I’m going with two choices – Edmonton and Vancouver. The Oilers have the offence up front – Hall, Draisaitl, Eberle, McDavid, etc. – they’re stacked. Defensively, they can’t find the net. Andrej Sekera was their only blue-liner to have more than 13 points. Yes, Klefbom only played in 30 games to get his 12 points, but there are no guarantees he would have been as offensively productive as Sekera in a full season.
Sergachev would be a perfect fit for the Oilers. He brings them much-needed offence from the blue-line, a nice edge defensively, and gives them a cornerstone defenceman to work with, alongside the rugged Darnell Nurse, who played for Sault Ste Marie in the OHL.
Vancouver has a definite need for an offensive defenceman, as their point leader from line was Ben Hutton with 25 points. While their farm system has offensive talents, they’re still in the junior ranks, and Sergachev could certainly by-pass them over the next couple of seasons. A future power-play duo of Sergachev and Jordan Subban has to be awfully enticing.
While Sergachev is not ready for the NHL just yet, he will be in short order. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him get big minutes for Windsor during their upcoming Memorial Cup-hosting season, and then make the NHL for the 2017-18 season. He has all the tools needed to be a big-game performer. Don’t be surprised if Sergachev’s name is called very early at the draft, maybe even as the first defenceman.