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Meet Mikhail Sergachev, the Lightning's newest defenseman

By all accounts, he's one of the top young blueliners ready to break into the NHL

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning traded offensive wiz Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens for highly-prized defenseman prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

So, just who is this Sergachev guy?

Well, by all accounts, he's one of the top young blueliners ready to break into the National Hockey League. The ninth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Sergachev possesses the size - 6-foot-3, 215 pounds -- speed, skill, shot, skating ability and defensive prowess to make scouts drool.

But what else do we know about the 18-year-old (soon to be 19 on June 25) native of Nizhnekamsk, Russia, who has played the last two seasons with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League?

Let's take a closer look at the Bolts' newest acquisition.

SERGACHEV COMES EQUIPPED WITH PLENTY OF HARDWARE

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During his first OHL season in 2015-16, Sergachev finished third among league defensemen for scoring (17-40-57) and was awarded the Max Kaminsky Trophy, given each year to the most outstanding defenseman in the OHL, becoming the youngest rookie to win the award and second youngest D-man overall to win it in the process.

Who else has won the Max Kaminsky? Just your run-of-the-mill Hockey Hall of Famers like Denis Potvin (1972 and 1973), Larry Murphy (1980), Al MacInnis (1983) and Chris Pronger (1993). More recently, Andrej Sekera (2006), Marc Staal (2007), Drew Doughty (2008), Ryan Ellis (2009, 2011), Dougie Hamilton (2012) and Aaron Ekblad (2014) were recipients.

Additionally, Sergachev was named to the OHL's First All-Rookie Team and First All-Star Team following the 2015-16 season. He also helped Windsor win the Memorial Cup this past season and was selected to the Memorial Cup All-Star Team.

Plenty of accolades for a guy who came to North America just three years ago.

HOLD A TOP 10 DRAFT PICK? YOU MIGHT HAVE A CHANCE TO SELECT SERGACHEV

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Even before being selected ninth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft by Montreal, Sergachev has always been a highly-coveted prospect.

After starting his junior career with Irbis Kazan of Russia's Junior Hockey League (MHL) and recording two goals and six assists through 25 games, Sergachev was taken sixth overall by the Windsor Spitfires in the CHL Import Draft.

He quickly showed he was worthy of the high selection.

Sergachev has played two seasons for Windsor, collecting 100 points (27 goals, 73 assists) in 117 regular season games. And the Spitfires made the playoffs in both of Sergachev's seasons, including taking the prestigious Memorial Cup as the top junior team in all of North America this past season.

THAT SHOT THOUGH

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Here are just a few of the ways hockey pundits have described Sergachev's slap shot:

"Big shot from the point"

"Blistering"

"Finds shooting lanes"

"Heavy shot from the point"

"Hard shot" with "substantial velocity"

"Laser of a shot"

"Cannon of a shot from the backend"

Sergachev was voted to have the Hardest Shot in an OHL Western Conference Coaches Poll following the 2015-16 season.

That shot is one of the many reasons Sergachev is considered to be one of the top offensive defenseman prospects in the game.

THE LIGHTNING NEARLY GOT A FIRST-HAND LOOK AT SERGACHEV EARLIER THIS SEASON

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After taking Sergachev just a couple months earlier in the NHL Entry Draft, the Montreal Canadiens broke training camp for the 2016-17 season with the youngster on their Opening Night roster, despite Sergachev being slowed in his first NHL camp by a shoulder injury sustained at an earlier rookie tournament.

The Canadiens inserted Sergachev into the lineup in three of the first four games of the season, his last start coming October 20 in a 5-2 win over Arizona.

A week later, the Canadiens hosted the Lightning at the Bell Centre, but Sergachev was a healthy scratch. Four days after the Bolts left town, Sergachev was returned to his junior team, where he spent the rest of the season, save for an emergency recall to the Habs for the final game of the regular season.

In all, Sergachev has played four NHL games, going plus-one with two shots and averaging 12:08 of ice time. He has yet to record his first NHL goal or point, something Lightning fans can look forward to as early as this season potentially.

SERGACHEV IS A QUICK LEARNER

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When Sergachev came to Canada in 2015, he spoke very little English. Other than introducing himself to his new Windsor teammates and coaches, he could say little else.

But Sergachev worked doggedly to learn English, studying on his own to break down the language barrier. By his second month on the Spitfires, Windsor coach Rocky Thompson said Sergachev could understand what coaches were telling him. By the third month, he could communicate back to his coaches.

Now? He speaks English better than some 18-year-old U.S. high schoolers.

Watch an interview with Sergachev and he displays the same poise and savvy speaking to reporters that he showcases when the puck is on his stick. It's difficult to even detect a Russian accent now when Sergachev talks.

His adaptability applies to hockey too. A lot of players coming from Europe have trouble adjusting to the North American game.

Not Sergachev.

Despite being 17 years old, playing over a thousand miles away from home and still learning how to communicate with his teammates and coaches, Sergachev thrived in his first season in the OHL, winning defenseman of the year honors as a rookie and proving an integral part to his team's success.

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