Windsor center Logan Brown said he won't forget the first time he was introduced to teammate Mikhail Sergachev, a defenseman from Russia taken by Windsor with the sixth pick in the 2015 Canadian Hockey League import draft.
It wasn't a long conversation.
"I remember going over to him and he looked at me and said, 'I am Misha,' " Brown said. "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."
Sergachev, a top prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft, worked through it with the help of his billet family and former Russian teammate Daniil Vertiy. But when Vertiy was traded from Windsor to North Bay in November 2015, Sergachev was forced to learn and speak English on his own.
"He's not your prototypical Russian," said Brown, also a top prospect for the 2016 draft. "He learned the language on his own and is now cracking jokes. He's hilarious. But even more remarkable was how quickly he was able to translate his game into a North American game."
The 6-foot-2, 206-pound left-shot defender is No. 10 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters eligible for the draft. He leads Ontario Hockey League defensemen with 17 goals, is tied for first with eight power-play goals, and is third with 40 assists and 57 points in 67 games.
Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting, said he has been impressed by Sergachev's smarts, poise and instincts.
"His read-and-react game is fast," Marr said. "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."
Sergachev said his midterm ranking, where he's No. 4 among North American defensemen, pushes him to raise his game more.
"It gives me motivation to do even better because I'm the fourth defenseman and I didn't like that," Sergachev said. "Everyone wants to be first, and I want to be first. But it's great being in the top 10. I like it, but I want to be better."
Windsor defenseman Logan Stanley has been paired with Sergachev most of the season. They also were defense partners for Team Bobby Orr at the 2016 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver on Jan. 28.
"He has an English teacher now and it gets better and better, so it's fun to play with him," said Stanley, No. 23 on Central Scouting's midterm ranking. "I think he makes me look a lot better. He still yells in Russian when he gets fired up. He sometimes comes back to the bench and says stuff in Russian, but we laugh at him and brush it off."
Sergachev is serious about making a mark. He picked No. 31 in Windsor because no one else liked it. He's determined make the number relevant while creating his own identity as a player.
Before he began starring on defense, Sergachev was a pretty electrifying forward.
"In my minor-midget year in Russia, I played forward for 20 games and scored 25 goals," he said. "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."
Sergachev liked to swim in high school, but his coach advised him to try something else. That's when he attempted hockey; the switch almost forced him from sports all together.
"In my first month of hockey, I didn't want to play and was crying a lot," he said. "My teammates didn't really treat me well. They said I couldn't skate and I was big and stupid. It took me two years to really learn to skate the right way. But I finally got it, and then I started to play hockey."
To reach his potential, Sergachev said he feels he needs to concentrate more on his defensive game and become harder to move in front of the net and in the corners.
"I've got to be better in the offensive zone without the puck," Sergachev said. "It's coming."
While that's certainly an area he wishes to improve, it isn't the most critical in his mind.
"Mikhail needs to learn English better," he said of himself. "I need to work hard and learn from Coach [Rocky Thompson], because he played and coached in the NHL."
Sergachev said he is a big fan of the Washington Capitals, in particular captain Alex Ovechkin.
"I like Ovechkin because he's an animal on the ice," Sergachev said. "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."