The Montreal Canadiens were incredibly lucky that Mikhail Sergachev fell to ninth in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Rumour has it the Edmonton Oilers were looking to take him with the fourth pick, but went with Jesse Puljujarvi after Columbus chose Pierre-Luc Dubois. Five picks later, he was still available for Trevor Timmins to scoop him up.
The Windsor Spitfires picked Sergachev sixth overall in the 2015 CHL Import Draft, and he paid immediate dividends. He scored 17 goals, added 40 assists, and was awarded the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL's most outstanding defenseman. It was as good of a rookie season as you could possibly ask for.
What's crazy is that he did all of this in a new country, and he didn't even speak any English when he came to Canada. A teenager, playing in a foreign country, learning an entirely new language, was the absolute best at his position in his rookie year. Extremely impressive.
He didn't even pick up the game of hockey until he was nine years old, so it seems that he was just made to play this game. There is no question of whether we will one day see him in a Canadiens uniform; the only question is when that will happen.
And be it resolved that a nickname has already been determined for him. As Andrei Markov is 'The General,' Mikhail Sergachev shall henceforth be known as 'The Sergeant.' Sarge for short. Learn to love it.
He actually finished tied with Nathan Beaulieu for the third-place spot on ballot average. However, by removing the high and low votes, Sergachev had the edge, and thus the third position. Only three ballots placed him outside of the top-five, so it is pretty clear that all panelists hold him in high esteem.
Top 25 Under 25 History
Not much to say here, as this is obviously his first year on the list. I did profile him ahead of the draft, however, if you'd like to read a little more about him. However, you can bet that this is a player we'll be talking about in this series for a long time.
There isn't much to not like about this kid. His skating is elite, he has hands like a forward, and he's got the prototypical physical build for a defenseman. If you were to make a puck-moving defenseman for today's NHL in a lab, you'd end up making Mikhail Sergachev.
His passing is superb, and 23 of his 40 assists were of the primary variety. When he's not feeding the puck to his forwards, he's wheeling it himself, and has the ability to make opposing defenders look silly with his hands, even at top speed, which is quite fast for him.
He has a lethal wrist shot that he loves to use in the offensive zone, and he backs that up with a very heavy slap shot. He's the complete package. He gets the play moving into the offensive zone, and he does serious damage once it gets there.
There are times when he looks like Alex Galchenyuk with the body of Alexei Emelin. It's quite impressive, and he's going to be a heck of an NHL player. His combination of size and puck-moving ability makes him a rare commodity, and if things go well for him he won't just be an NHL player, he'll be known as one of the elites.
If you look at the tape, and you read the scouting reports, there are zero glaring issues in his game. At times he can show some positional issues in the defensive zone, but that is rather common when talking about OHL rookies. Even in saying that, it's somewhat of a grasp at straws because he was the best defenseman in the OHL last year.
He has all of the raw talent necessary to be a dominant NHL player. What he needs at this stage is to work on polishing everything up so that he can transition smoothly to the pros.
It's a widespread consensus that he's a future top-pairing defender in the NHL. A hot topic in Montreal of late has been discussing whether or not he could actually make the Canadiens roster next year. I think it best to give him one more year in the OHL, but the fact that this is even a topic for discussion shows how much the fans are believing in the hype.
And that hype is justified. When I heard Trevor Timmins say "from the Windsor Spitfires," I thought he was going to say Logan Brown. Brown is a solid player, but as soon as I heard the name Mikhail, I left my seat to celebrate. I am extremely excited about this kid, and I do believe that every Habs fan should be.
He is probably a future partner for Jeff Petry or Shea Weber, but he can play the right side too, so he's versatile in where he can line up. I also hope Kirk Muller sticks around to coach him, because Sergachev on one of his power play units is something that I desperately need to see.
His ceiling is clearly a top-tier defender in the NHL, and I'll say right now that I firmly believe he's going to be that in the next couple of years.