WINDSOR, Ontario -- Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev had a memorable 2016-17 season.
He had two stints with the Montreal Canadiens, won a bronze medal with Russia at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship and now, after a six-week hiatus, is playing for host Windsor at the 2017 Memorial Cup.
After a 7-1 win against Seattle at WFCU Centre on Sunday, the Spitfires are 2-0 and guaranteed at least a spot in the semifinal game Friday. If they defeat Erie on Wednesday, they'll get a bye into the championship game Sunday.
"It has been kind of crazy," Sergachev said. "We got knocked out of the [Ontario Hockey League] playoffs, I got called back up by the Canadiens, and then we had to sit around for 44 days, which was annoying.
"Now we're winning again."
The Memorial Cup doesn't draw much attention in Russia, but Sergachev got an early lesson in its importance in Canada.
"When I first got here, I was working out with NHL guys like Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers) and Steve Ott (Canadiens), and they told me how big it is to win the Memorial Cup," Sergachev said. "Since then it has been the biggest thing I've wanted to achieve in Windsor."
He almost didn't get the chance.
Sergachev, 18, was selected by the Canadiens with the No. 9 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, made the opening night roster and played three games. He had no points while averaging 10:25 of ice time per game. He was the youngest player in the League and was learning valuable lessons from teammates Shea Weber and Andrei Markov.
But he was struggling to get regular ice time. The Canadiens decided his development needed the steady minutes he would get in the OHL and returned him to Windsor on Oct. 31.
He excelled against players his age, with 43 points (10 goals, 33 assists) in 50 games. He also scored one goal in seven games for Russia at the WJC.
With Windsor loading up for the Memorial Cup, there were chemistry issues during the regular season and it culminated with a seven-game loss to London in the first round of the OHL playoffs on April 4.
As the host team they had an automatic bid into the Memorial Cup, leaving them lots of practice time before the OHL, Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions arrived for the start of the tournament on May 19.
Sergachev, though, happily left his teammates for 24 hours early in the process. The Canadiens had clinched the Atlantic Division and wanted to rest some of their veterans for their season finale at the Detroit Red Wings on April 8, so Sergachev was recalled. He got 17:13 of ice time in Montreal's 3-2 overtime victory.
"It was huge to get called back up because I'd been cheering for them all season, plus I knew it was going to be a big game," Sergachev said. "Playing in Windsor, we heard all about the final season at [Joe Louis Arena], and I was getting a chance to play in one of the last games."
Canadiens coach Claude Julien said he liked what he saw from Sergachev.
"I can see a lot of potential," Julien said after the game. "He was playing junior a week ago, but he jumped into this level of play and handled himself well."
He's taken all his experience to help Windsor at the Memorial Cup. He had two assists in a 3-2 victory against QMJHL champion Saint John in the tournament opener Friday, then was a plus-1 and helped kill off a 75-second 5-on-3 against WHL champion Seattle on Sunday.