Each week Catching the Torch takes an in-depth look at one young member of the organization, while also providing an overview on performances over the last seven days of players below the NHL level. This includes players at the junior (CHL, USHL, etc.) and collegiate (NCAA) levels, as well as professional (AHL, ECHL) ranks.
Prospect Spotlight: Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Mikhail Sergachev didn’t have the World Junior Championship he had hoped for, but he’s wasted little time getting his groove back in the Ontario Hockey League. And this none too soon for his general manager, Warren Rychel, who had some tough love for the reigning top defenceman.
“We need him to be more like [last season],” Rychel told the Windsor Star.
You’d forgive Rychel, whose team will host this year’s Memorial Cup, if he hadn’t noticed the way the Russian had stepped up his game this week. The GM has been busy arming his team prior to the OHL’s trade deadline. The biggest get was undoubtedly Team USA forward and Toronto Maple Leafs second-rounder Jeremy Bracco, who gives a team that has been scary at forward when healthy even more offensive firepower.
Even with the deadline come and gone, another American could join the squad, as Rychel holds the rights to Arizona Coyotes prospect Clayton Keller (currently at Boston University) and will try to convince him a deep Memorial Cup run would be best for his development.
While his GM worked the phones, Sergachev worked the blue line, earning an assist on Thursday on an Aaron Luchuk short-handed goal in a 3-2 overtime win, and following that up with a pair of helpers in Friday’s 6-5 loss.
The 19-year-old saved his best for the week’s final contest, named the first star in Sunday’s 5-1 win over Saginaw. Sergachev assisted on the game-opening goal — again by Luchuk — before himself adding what would hold up as the winner later in the opening stanza. Sergachev scored a second time early in the third period; a backbreaker after Saginaw had gotten on the board late in the middle frame.
Mikhail Sergachev with 1G 1A (primary) after 20. The classic Sergachev play: Dangle then explode into open space to improve shot location. pic.twitter.com/EpjeByxy52— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) January 15, 2017
“Probably the best game [Sergachev]’s played, and not just because of the two goals,” coach Rocky Thompson told the Star. “He was dangerous.”
Luchuk agreed with Thompson, but noted that while points haven’t always come as easy for Sergachev this season, it hasn’t been for a lack of want or effort.
“He should have way more [goals]. He hasn’t gotten some bounces, but he’s playing unbelievable right now.”
Mikhail Sergachev scores his second of the night. What a bomb. pic.twitter.com/JDQuH6as8o— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) January 15, 2017
As for Sergachev himself, he hardly seems bothered that his four goals on the season to date are a long way from last year’s 17 that led all OHL d-men.
“I don’t actually care [about goals]. It’s not my goal. My goal’s to play better defence — [also] produce offence and help the team win games, but first I want to work on my defence.”
Sergachev will have plenty more opportunities to strut his stuff before taking another run at the Canadiens’ roster as early as this year’s playoffs, but perhaps more realistically next fall.
Windsor currently sits second in the OHL’s West Division, but should be strong in the back half with their additions and players returning from injury. Even if they shouldn’t capture the OHL regular-season or playoff titles, no one will be looking at them as easy pickings come the Memorial Cup tournament. Even less so if Sergachev continues to round into form.
Prospect Performances from January 9 - 15, 2017
Jeremiah Addison wasn’t as productive as Sergachev for Windsor, but did collect assists on Friday and Sunday. The Bracco acquisition has bumped Addison down the depth chart a little, leaving him less ice time with talents like Gabriel Vilardi and Logan Brown, particularly with the man advantage. Nevertheless, he did set up Vilardi for a goal that looked like it would seal a victory, putting Windsor up 5-2 with just over five minutes to play on Friday. Amazingly, Sarnia responded with three quick goals, and ultimately took the win on a Drake Rymsha overtime marker.
Will Bitten’s new line with Niki Petti and Matt Luff, discussed last week, stayed hot, with Bitten sandwiching a pair of single-assist games with a first-star effort Friday night. The hard-nosed centre led Hamilton to its only win — a 5-1 decision over Oshawa — by setting up Matthew Strome for a go-ahead goal midway through the second. Back with his usual linemates, Bitten himself would next score an insurance marker before the period was through, and later added his team’s fifth and final tally in the third.
Will Bitten is on fire right now. 2G 1A last night, 12G 7A in last 16GP. Here's his second goal from last night: pic.twitter.com/p9IbR84tji— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) January 14, 2017
Simon Bourque had just one point on ten Saint John Sea Dogs goals in a pair of games this week, coming Sunday in the 7-6 loss to Cape Breton. Paired with top Ottawa Senators prospect and Team Canada darling Thomas Chabot, Bourque earned a secondary assist on a Matthew Highmore goal that tied the game at one. Later in the second period, with his team down 2-1, Bourque took what could have been a costly tripping penalty, but he was saved by teammate Joe Veleno turning the tables by evening the score while short-handed.
Matt Bradley got on the scoreboard in each of Medicine Hat’s games. Wednesday night against Prince George, he scored his 19th of the campaign to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead just past the game’s halfway point. On Friday, Bradley and his linemates, Mason Shaw and John Dahlstrom, combined for what proved to be the winning goal, though at the time it staked their side a 4-0 lead before the first period was complete. Medicine Hat ended up winning a wild one by a 7-3 score.
Noah Juulsen finally returned to the Everett line-up following his silver-medal World Junior Championship performance, but was held without a point in the Silvertips’ 4-0 win Friday night. Paired with 17-year-old and 2017 Draft-eligible Jake Christiansen, he was also blanked in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Seattle, finishing a -1 as he was on the ice for the game-winning tally in extra time.
Victor Mete was injured in London’s only game this week. Friday night, a puck was deflected and struck the defenseman in the head, forcing him out of the game. He sat out the Knights’ games on both Saturday and Sunday as well.
Michael Pezzetta broke a four-game drought with a big goal that started a Sudbury rally Wednesday night. Down 4-1 with six minutes to go, Pezzetta’s sixth of the campaign was followed up by Dmitry Sokolov and Ryan Valentini goals to force overtime, though Sault Ste. Marie would prevent the game from slipping through their fingers thanks to a David Miller winner.
After being blanked in a 2-1 win Friday, Notre Dame’s Jake Evans was all over the ice Saturday, though he couldn’t help his side complete a sweep over Merrimack. Evans led all skaters in the game with eight of the Fighting Irish’s 37 shots, and set up Andrew Oglevie for a goal early in the third that pulled their team back within one. Unfortunately, they were unable to find an equalizer, with Merrimack adding an empty-netter in the dying seconds.
Colin Sullivan was unable to add to the pair of points he collected in recent weeks, held pointless in Miami’s 6-3 win Friday and a 3-1 loss Saturday.
Nikolas Koberstein and Alaska-Fairbanks were back in action after a week off, and came away with a win and a draw in a pair of games against Ferris State University. He was involved in an altercation early in the third of Friday’s 3-3 draw, and assessed a double-minor. He finished a -1 with no shots in Saturday’s 2-1 win.
Dubuque scored six goals in each of their wins on the weekend. Casey Staum followed up an even rating in the first game with an assist and a +3 in the second. His helper came on a Cole Guttman goal in the first that tied the game up at one.
A light schedule may have been what the doctor ordered for the injury- and call-up- weakened St. John’s Ice Caps, with the team again collecting three of a possible four points.
Defenceman Tom Parisi continues to establish himself in his first full pro season, leading all IceCaps skaters with three points on the week.
Jacob de la Rose added another assist to the points he had been piling on after a slow start, snapping a three-game pointless skid. At the time of his call-up to Montreal, the two-way forward had collected three goals and seven assists in his last 14 games, well ahead of the early-season pace where he notched only one point in his first 10 contests.
Nikita Scherbak was blanked in his first two games after returning from his NHL debut in Montreal. Charles Hudon has yet to return from injury.
Charlie Lindgren got one of two St. John’s starts, ceding the goal for Yann Danis to play his 400th AHL game and record his 200th win in the other. Friday night, Lindgren stopped 23 of 24 Hartford shots in regulation, but was beaten on the Wolf Pack’s third attempt in the extra frame to drop a 2-1 decision.
Zachary Fucale left for the Spengler Cup after seemingly having turned around his year, and his hot streak continued into the tournament. However, back in the ECHL, his struggles and inconsistencies have returned. After a pair of big losses last week, Fucale allowed four goals twice and six once in his last three outings.
Michael McNiven ran his current win streak to 10 games with another perfect week, allowing seven total goals over a trio of victories. While he was sound between the pipes, his Owen Sound teammates gave him plenty to work with, scoring six, seven, and eight goals, respectively, in the three games. It was a rare week of no three-star honours for the keeper.
Hayden Hawkey had a rare rough outing Friday, allowing four goals on 13 shots through 40 minutes, leaving Providence down 4-1 despite holding a 23-13 shot advantage. A third-period rally would fall short, resulting in a 4-3 loss. He was better in Saturday’s rematch with Vermont, turning aside 25 attempts to earn a 4-1 decision.