8th among North American Skaters
Mikhail Sergachev isn’t one to shy away from adversity. In fact, this season the blueliner was known to persevere on a few occasions.
Selected sixth overall by the Windsor Spitfires in the 2015 CHL Import Draft, Sergachev, having played his 2014-15 season with Irbis Kazan of Russia’s MHL, was immediately met with his first challenge: integrate himself into a new culture and new language.
“That was kind of a tough couple first months,” he admitted when speaking to Oilers radio analyst Bob Stauffer at the NHL Combine. “New hockey, new style of hockey, new language, new guys and everybody, everything was new to me. It was kind of tough to do that but I’ve done it.”
It may have been tough, but in the end, completely worth it for the Nizhnekamsk, Russia native. Immersing himself into his new hockey surroundings, Sergachev quickly became a pivotal piece to the Spitfires success, recording 17 goals and 40 assists for 57 points in 67 games, as well as five points (2G, 3A) in five post-season games.
“He’s the best defenceman by far to take in this draft,” Windsor Spitfires Head Coach Rocky Thompson told 630 CHED’s Reid Wilkins. “Sergachev, in practice, in lots of games, he has that fire, he has that bite. He actually feeds off of that emotion when guys get into his face. So he has that element of his game. It’s just that it was his first year away from home, however many thousand miles away it is in Russia where he grew up, and he was able to come here, embrace our culture; the kid didn’t even know English, and all of a sudden he’s out there, and three months into our season he’s communicating. Not only is he communicating well, he’s telling jokes.”
Sergachev overcame his second bout with adversity in April when one of the biggest mass doping scandals in hockey history hit Russia. Every member of the Russian under-18 squad was pulled and replaced the day before they were set to depart for Grand Forks, N.D., to play in 2016 U18 World Championship, due to players testing positive for the controversial drug meldonium, a banned substance.
The blueliner — who was permitted to go on to the tournament as he was playing in the CHL when the incident occurred in Russia — inherited the task of leading the squad of primarily under-17 players in the tournament. For a team that was pretty much thrown together last minute, in addition to being young, they managed to find chemistry, qualify for the playoff round and get edged by a lone goal to eventual champs Finland in the quarterfinal.
Described as a feisty, mobile defenceman that can beat a player with his quick first step or a solid pass, Sergachev’s ability to control the play when pressured in his own zone prevents the blueliner from panicking and he calmly looks to play it along the rim and safely out.
“In terms of his size, skill and upside, he might be one of the most NHL-ready players in the draft too,” an NHL scout told The Hockey News
His confidence on the ice combined with a humbling demeanour off the ice highlights a well-rounded individual. With a strong point shot and the ability to run a power play, Sergachev has been compared to the likes of Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty.
“It is a big compliment because Drew Doughty is the best defenceman — he’s the best in the NHL,” said Sergachev. “I would like to be like him, maybe better, who knows.”
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
- Rocky Thompson, Head Coach of the Windsor Spitfires: “I believe he is going to be able to defend at the next level, especially if we are able to help him over the course of next year. He has the best shot from the point in the CHL. Nobody can crack a one-timer, a slap shot, drag and shoot like he can in our league. … When you talk and look at that No. 1 type defenceman, you want him to run your power play and I believe he’s the best option to be able to do that…”
- Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects: “A dominant two-way defenceman whose tenacity and competitiveness characterize his style of play. Plays with a poise and confidence that facilitates his creativity with the puck as well as split-second decision making. Naturally fluid skater who is always looking to be engaged, if not the centre, of each unfolding play. All-in-all, a diligent two-way defenceman who excels at finding ways to be a difference-maker in games.”
- ISS: “Real edge to his game and makes you earn your space — agitator — hard heavy shot, plays a lot and never seemed tired, wide track skating style and has good balance and is very steady. Uses his stick well and finishes his checks hard.”