ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo on June 24-25. Mikhail Sergachev is the No. 8-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. The Avalanche has the 10th overall selection at the draft.
Mikhail Sergachev, a defenseman from Nizhnekamsk, Russia, landed himself a spot in the top 10 North American skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft due to his large stature and quick transitions on the ice.
Sergachev was quick to take advantage of the size that he has on his side during his first year with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. Weighing in at 208 pounds, the 6-foot-2 player used his body to find success on the ice, much in the way his role model Alex Ovechkin does.
"I like Ovechkin because he's an animal on the ice," Sergachev said to NHL.com. "He's big, strong, has a good shot, good hands and good head. He's fun to watch because he's like a bear, and I want to be a Russian bear."
Sergachev had a total of 57 points (17 goals, 40 assists) in 67 games played during his first season in North America, pacing team defensemen in all three categories and putting him third among OHL rookies in scoring. He also ended the year with a plus-15 rating and five game-winning-goals.
In the five playoff games he competed in, he tallied another five points (two goals, three assists), all of which came on the power play.
Aside from his offensive production, other aspects of his game that have been highly recognized include his hockey IQ and positioning on the ice.
“His read-and-react game is fast,” Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting said to NHL.com. “He’s able to transition quickly. He’s got that focus on the ice, and he’s a guy you don’t catch out of position. It is a lot tougher to beat him 1-on-1 now than it was earlier in the year.”
Transitioning to North America was not always easy, though. From the beginning, Sergachev had to learn to play a different style of game and how to speak English before he could create chemistry with his Spitfires teammates.
"I remember going over to him and he looked at me and said, ‘I am Misha,’” Windsor center Logan Brown said to NHL.com. “I asked him what he was doing and if he wanted to hang out for a while, and he looked at me again and said, 'I am Misha.' I mean, that's all he could say, so we had to work through it."
Despite obstacles like the language barrier, the defenseman was able to find success during the 2015-16 campaign, which included him registering eight goals and 23 assists in man-advantage situations. He also earned the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman. Only six days older than 1976-77 recipient Craig Hartsburg, Sergachev became the second rookie and second-youngest player to receive the honor.
Selected sixth overall by Windsor in the 2015 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, the defenseman was not always a top D-man. Sergachev started out playing forward before switching over to defense, which helped the left-hander become a two-way player.
“In my minor-midget year in Russia, I played forward for 20 games and scored 25 goals,” Sergachev said to NHL.com. “That was four years ago, when I played in a tournament as a center and was captain for that team. No one played great and I was the biggest guy in the league, so I had fun scoring goals.”
Prior to playing in the OHL, the big-bodied defenseman skated with Irbis Kazan of the Russian Junior Hockey League (MHL). In 25 games during the 2014-15 campaign, Sergachev put up a total of eight points (two goals, six assists).
He also represented Russia at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, where he won a gold medal, and at the 2015 and 2016 Under-18 World Hockey Championships.
Ranked No. 8 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Sergachev’s size and speed make him one of the top defensive prospects to look for in the upcoming 2016 NHL Draft.