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Sergachev primed to take next step with Lightning

Defenseman prospect, acquired in trade with Canadiens, believes he's ready to play in NHL

by Corey Long / Correspondent

BRANDON, Fla. -- It didn't take very long for Mikhail Sergachev to be noticed at Tampa Bay Lightning development camp last month.

The defenseman prospect didn't even have to put on his equipment or handle a puck to pass the eye test of Benoit Groulx, coach of Syracuse of the American Hockey League, the Lightning's affiliate.

"He's a big guy," Groulx said. "I was with him in the elevator. He's big, he's thick."

The Montreal Canadiens selected Sergachev (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) with the No. 9 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. He was acquired by the Lightning in a trade for forward Jonathan Drouin on June 15, and when Sergachev, 19, hit the ice in camp it was easy to see why.

"You can tell he's going to be an outstanding player," Groulx said. "No doubt about it. He's mobile, passes the puck hard, shoots the puck, I was very impressed with him. New skates, new equipment, first time on the ice and I was very impressed."

In order to get back the necessary value in trading Drouin, who had 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists) in 73 games last season, Sergachev was what Tampa Bay needed.

"We made the trade because we're looking to acquire a defenseman that plays the game that Sergachev plays," Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said after the trade. "An offensive defenseman, big, strong, good skater, moves the puck well. We were looking for that type of player and we were able to find him."

Video: Sergachev on arriving in Tampa

The addition of Sergachev gives the Lightning a centerpiece among a core of promising young defensemen prospects, including Erik Cernak, 20, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings for goalie Ben Bishop on Feb. 26, and Ben Thomas, 21, a fourth-round pick (No. 119) in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Cernak and Thomas are likely to play this season for Syracuse, but Sergachev will have a chance to make the Lightning roster. He broke camp with the Canadiens last season and played four games before being sent down for his second season with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League.

Sergachev has said he'd rather not go back to juniors for a third year but isn't putting any additional pressure on himself.

"I don't know, I'm a prospect and I haven't made the team or ever played a full season in the NHL," Sergachev said. "So I'm just like everyone, trying to make the team."

That said, Sergachev's initial taste of the NHL has him itching to get back as soon as possible.

"I have to have a good summer, first of all, I have to be stronger," he said. "I have to be faster to play in the NHL overall to be successful. But I also played a lot in juniors, two years for me, I think is a lot and in Russia I played one year too.

"So I played a lot in juniors and I learned a lot from Windsor … so I think I'm ready for the NHL."

Sergachev said he models his game after Drew Doughty, the three-time All-Star and 2016 Norris Trophy winner for the Kings. Sergachev said he was frustrated by being traded at first but quickly realized the opportunity he has with the Lightning.

"It's amazing that this team wants me more than Montreal, and they want me to come play in the NHL and they want me to try to help them," Sergachev said. "That's why I love this team. Montreal needed Drouin, he's from there, and I think this is the only way Tampa [Bay] would have traded him was for me.

"They asked for me."

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