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Getting to know Montreal Canadiens’ 2016 ninth-overall selection Mikhail Sergachev

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The Canadiens added a key piece to the organizational depth with their first-round choice.

2016 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With the ninth-overall pick on a day filled with trades and surprising selections above them, the Montreal Canadiens selected Mikhail Sergachev of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires.

Sergachev was the second defenceman selected on Friday, after Olli Juolevi went fifth overall to the Vancouver Canucks. Like Juolevi, Sergachev chose to come over from Europe for his draft year to play in the Ontario Hockey League in preparation for an NHL career. He had an excellent season with Windsor, with 17 goals and 40 assists in 67 games.

After just starting to play hockey at the age of nine, Sergachev has quickly developed into an elite prospect, and is seen as perhaps the most complete defencemen that was available in the 2016 class. As a result, he was awarded the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL’s best defenceman at the conclusion of the season, beating out several other draft-eligible players — and some who had already been selected in previous drafts — for the honour.

He’s not only a point producer, but an excellent puck-mover, and a good defender in his own end. At 6’2", 221 pounds, he’s a big-bodied player who won’t need to develop physically before he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL, but will need to use his size more to his advantage to excel at the professional level.

Given his abilities, he projects as at least a very good top-four defenceman, with a good chance of becoming a top-pairing player. Other than physical toughness, there is no glaring weakness in his game, and his skating ability, noted by many as his greatest attribute, helps him transition between his solid defensive play and stellar offensive abilities to make him a three-zone player.

Scouting

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.

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.

Hockey Prospect Black Book

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.

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.

Rankings

Future Considerations: 9th

ISS Hockey: 10th

Hockey Prospect Black Book: 8th

DraftBuzz Hockey: 6th

Bob McKenzie: 9th

Sergachev automatically becomes the Canadiens’ best prospect defenceman, passing the more defensively-inclined Noah Juulsen for the title as best defenceman in the system, without needing a "junior-age" qualifier. With Andrei Markov set to turn 38 before the end of the year, Sergachev can be regarded as The General’s replacement in the not-too-distant future, and should be a very good complement to P.K. Subban on the team’s top duo for many years to come.

In making the selection, the Canadiens chose Sergachev over other top-ranked defencemen Jake Bean and the free-falling Jakob Chychrun. They also passed on highly ranked centres Tyson Jost and Logan Brown.

Of that group of possibilities, there’s little argument that Sergachev was the best option. It’t possible that Logan Brown will put all his tools together and become a star in the NHL, but Sergachev is more likely to achieve that status with the all-around ability he already possesses.

The Canadiens traded their two second-round picks earlier in the evening, meaning that the ninth pick was the only chance they had to add a key piece to the organization until (as it currently stands) the 70th pick, in the third round. With the selection of a player who projects to be a key member of the core, the team did just that.