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2016 NHL Draft prospect profile: Mikhail Sergachev may be the best defenceman available

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After coming over to the OHL from Russia, Mikhail Sergachev burst onto the scene, and now he's one of the top defenders in the NHL draft.

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Mikhail Sergachev is arguably the best all-around defenceman available in this year's draft. Selected sixth overall in the 2015 CHL import draft, he came over to North America and made a serious impact as one of the top defenders for the Windsor Spitfires, and really one of the best in the entire OHL.

Putting up 57 points in 67 games, he established himself as a dependable two-way defender, one who moves the puck well and drives offence in addition to excellent defensive zone play. Opinions vary on where exactly he'll go in the draft, but he stands a pretty good chance of being a top-10 pick on June 24.

Birthplace: Nizhnekamsk, Russia

Shoots: Left

Position: Defence

Height: 6'2.25" Weight: 221lbs

Sergachev is a big body defenceman, but his size is far from the only thing that stands out. He is an exceptional skater, particularly for a player that only picked up the game as a nine-year-old in Russia. Very smooth stride, and explosive acceleration that allows him to get to top speed in a couple of steps. His lateral movement is also excellent; he is a very polished skater, and a rare combination of size and fluid movement.

Terms like "world class" have been used to describe his skating. Once he gets going he's very hard to stop, and he has surprisingly good hands for a player of his size as well. And he rarely utilizes the dump-in. If he sees a lane, he will challenge opposing defenders, and has the speed and puck skills to beat them. The complete package for getting the puck into the offensive zone.

He is also a great puck mover. One of the things that really stands out is his patience with the puck. He always looks for the right play, and almost never panics to the point of banging it off the boards or the glass. When he can't use his skating, he has great vision and passing to find his teammates and get the puck moving up ice.

He played in all situations for the Spitfires, taking significant power play and penalty kill time. Because he excels at both ends of the ice, he is very versatile. He can quarterback a power play, keep forwards to the outside on the kill, and clogs up shooting lanes.

One thing you also tend to look for in offensively gifted defencemen is a hard shot, and he definitely has one of those. His slapshot, wrist shot, and snapshot are all extremely powerful, and he gets them off quickly. Some have suggested that he often looks to shoot too much, but with a shot like his, it is quite hard to fault him.

Some have also suggested that he doesn't assert himself quite enough physically, but given his size profile, that is something that should come with time. He will probably be back with the Spitfires next season, and given what he did as a rookie, there is no reason to think he won't continue on that track.

Scouting

Hockey Prospect

Sergachev is a big-bodied defenseman who skates very well. He carries the puck with confidence and with a combination of speed and protection ability rarely found in defensive prospects. Unlike some defensemen, he doesn't stop when entering the offensive zone. When possible he will challenge defenders one on one, winning a fair share of those match-up's. He possesses a lethal wrist shot which he has used to score some of his 17 goals this season on the rush. Sergachev also has a powerful slapshot from the point and unloads great one-timers. He puts the puck on net and can score, as well as create rebounds with that powerful point shot. He does a good job pinching to keep the play going in the offensive zone.

Defensively he plays with a bit of an edge. He will take the body and has crushed some opponents. He has a good stick on one on one’s and with his size and reach he has been tough to beat. He can sometimes lose his positioning during sustained zone pressure, which is not uncommon for OHL rookies. Sergachev has all the makings of a top pairing offensive defenseman at the next level. He has to overcome defensive inconsistencies but has the hockey sense and skill to be very successful at the NHL level. Sergachev will be one of the first defensemen taken at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft

Future Considerations

Sergachev is a smooth-skating defenseman who isn’t afraid to use his body. He looks very comfortable and confident, quietly playing a strong and effective game from the back end. He plays in all situations and is successful; he effectively cuts off his man’s routes, and gets the puck out of pressure situations. Sergachev reads the situations well and does not just get rid of the puck in a hurry. With some space and time, he is patient looking for other options besides just banging it off the wall or down the ice. A key member of the Spitfires power play unit, he moves the puck around the top of the zone with confidence and poise, and utilizes his vision and creativity when he sees an opportunity to slide down low for a shot. Sergachev has a very heavy point shot that is positioned well. A high-end skater who has exceptional acceleration, he can explode laterally in one step, which makes all the difference. He shows excellent edge work to maintain balance and strength, cutting up the ice with shifty feet and quick pivots.

Sergachev stays calm and collected skating with the puck, while also generating tremendous speed as he crosses over and moves his way up ice. He is a powerful skater when he gets moving and is almost unstoppable on his feet. He displays impressive awareness and knows when an opponent is lining him up, adapting accordingly to move laterally and protect the puck while using his speed to separate from the man, not getting flustered or making an unnecessary play with the puck. He sees lanes develop and hits his man with a crisp pass. He is a high-end puck mover. His passes are crisp and he leads his man. Calm and composed with the puck, Sergachev makes smart plays to get the puck up ice. He is cool as a cucumber, showing absolutely no hesitation under pressure. He remains composed and relaxed with pressure or when there are no options available, never appearing flustered even in the worst of times. Defensively, he marks his man and makes a strong effort to keep him contained to the outside and away from the slot and high-threat areas.

ISS

In his first year in North America, Sergachev was able to combine his fluid skating with his understanding of the game to be an impact player. Has a bomb of a shot from the blue line with a quick release. Can lead the rush with end to end rushes as well as good outlet passes. Played a much more defensive role compared to playing a leadership role on a younger Russian U18 team. Defensively uses his size, stick and smarts to position himself well and take away lanes from opponents. He’s willing to battle hard in the corners with good physical play and compete. His poise with the puck makes him dangerous with high end skating ability to escape forecheckers. Has the ability to make an impact in all three zones and on every shift. Sergachev was named OHL Defenceman of the year.

DraftBuzz Hockey

Mikhail Sergachev is an expressive Russian import with world-class skating ability who flashed #1D capacity late this season. Named OHL’s top defenseman, Sergachev blazed the 2nd half after reportedly communicating homesickness in the fall up to November. Sergachev eventually got it together improving from .76 to an elite 1.05PTS/GP, like Provorov elite, which is an increase of 38.2% from the first 2/3 to last 1/3. Even more astounding is that Windsor’s GF production barely changed in that same time period: 3.71G/GP to 3.74G/GP. Not only do the numbers suggest electric potential, but so does his natural ability. Sergachev is a freak of an athlete whose skates jump off the ice with grace, power, and fluidity.

He stickhandles like a first line playmaker, and rushes the puck with pull-you-out-of your-seat excitement. He is the premier point man in the draft, with a bomb of a slapshot, a howitzer of a snap/wrist shot, and effortless puck movement. He could run the point blindfold, that’s how good he is back there. To top off all the ringing endorsement, Sergachev is a physical specimen who has no problem playing with edge. There are critiques of him being detached, and that’s just a misunderstanding of an elite talent conserving his energy – because he can. He’s not perfect, but a lucky team is going to cultivate him so that all you see is the explosively athletic skill – skill that should make the NHL sooner rather than later.

Rankings

ISS: 10th

Future Considerations: 9th

Hockey Prospect: 8th

DraftBuzz Hockey: 6th

NHL Central Scouting: 8th (North American skaters)

ESPN: 17th

Draft Analyst: 11th

Thoughts

It really depends on what players remain on the board when the Canadiens are on the clock, but you have to think they'll take a hard look at Sergachev. Left defence is not an area of abundance in the Habs' prospect pool, so he fills that need, and could be ready for the NHL in one or two years.

If Montreal is to stay at ninth overall, they could do a lot worse. He projects as a potential top-pair defenceman in the NHL, so to get your hands on talent like that is a clear win. If you try to imagine a future possibility of him playing with P.K. Subban, that is something that looks very intriguing.

If big names like Dubois, Tkachuk, and Nylander don't fall to that ninth spot, he's almost a no-brainer. There are a couple other defencemen that are in the running to go early, but few have the combination of size and mobility that Sergachev has.

You may have your eye on some other players for the Habs this year, but if they ended up taking Mikhail Sergachev, they would be getting one heck of a defenceman.