When the Montreal Canadiens stepped up to the podium at the 2016 NHL draft and announced that Windsor Spitfires defenceman Mikhail Sergachev was their pick, the Habs made a very important add for their future. Montreal’s prospect pool has a plethora of defencemen but prior to Sergachev’s addition, it lacked that high ceiling top pairing player. After the draft, Sergachev attended Montreal’s development camp where he was a man among boys and was the most exciting player there.
The Importance of Sergachev
With PK Subban being traded for a slightly older Shea Weber, the selection of Sergachev holds a little more weight. As good as Weber is, he has never been the fastest player in the world and that has become more evident as he has aged. The best pure skater on Montreal’s back end is Nathan Beaulieu but it remains to be seen if he has the chops to be a consistent top pairing defenceman. Beaulieu looked good alongside Subban last season, albeit in a small sample size and he will likely get another chance this season alongside Weber.
However, Sergachev’s ceiling is much higher than Beaulieu’s at the same age and some think that Sergachev could push for an NHL roster spot as soon as this fall. As Weber ages, he is going to need a high-end mobile partner and Sergachev could perhaps be that player in the not too distant future.
— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) July 6, 2016
Sergachev is one of those defense prospects that checks off all the boxes. He has NHL size already at 6’2″ 220 pounds with excellent skating ability. He has the offensive chops of a forward as shown by his 57 points in 67 games. His defensive game is solid and his high hockey IQ allows him to play in all situations. In addition, Sergachev won the OHL’s defenseman of the year award and he did it as a rookie in his first season in North America. There were even rumors at the draft that the Edmonton Oilers would have taken Sergachev if Jesse Puljujarvi hadn’t fallen into their laps at number four.
Of all the defensemen in the 2016 draft, Sergachev arguably has the most upside. London Knights’ Olli Juolevi went fifth to Vancouver and while he is an excellent prospect as well, some wonder how much offense he will put up at the next level. Sarnia Sting’s Jakob Chychrun has all the tools and logic dictates he should be a dominant player. However, he hasn’t been able to glue it all together and dominate. Sergachev has his flaws too as he can be seen as a risky player offensively and some still like to attach “The Russian Factor” label to him, despite the fact he spent this past season in North America and was drafted by a team that’s not afraid to take Russian-born players.
Future Number One?
Sergachev has the highest ceiling of any Montreal defensive prospect since the days of Ryan McDonagh and PK Subban. His combination of size, speed, skill, IQ and character make him an enticing player. For any Montreal prospect, especially for a first rounder, the expectations are high and Sergachev has the added pressure of being a top ten pick. With his tantalizing potential, Sergachev is Montreal’s best prospect because of his immense skill, high ceiling and his importance to the team long term.