Russian defenseman Mikhail Sergachev came over to North America this past year after being selected by the Windsor Spitfires in the CHL's Import Draft, and he made an immediate impact. His strong season with the Spits vaulted him into contention to be selected in the first half of the first round. It's not yet clear where Sergachev ranks among the top defenseman available in the Draft, but it's a guarantee that he won't have to wait long to hear his name called in Buffalo.
Player: Mikhail Sergachev
Team: Windsor Spitfires(OHL)
Height: 6'2" Weight: 205 lbs.
Stats: 67 games 17 goals 40 assists 57 points, +15
Final NHL Central Scouting Rank: 8th among North American skaters
What I Like:
Everything is always calm and controlled when Sergachev has the puck. He's never rushed, even when facing heavy pressure. He does a tremendous job of being patient and making a skill play to a teammate to maintain possession rather than punting possession.
Sergachev has a strong, wide frame and he uses it very effectively to gain leverage on opponents. He's tremendous at using his body to angle opponents off the puck and win puck battles. When breaking the puck out of his own end, he makes up for his lack of elite speed by keeping the forechecker on his back hip and protecting the puck from him.
For a big man, Sergachev moves east-west really well. This allows him to walk the line across the blue line with the puck to create space and open up angles. It also makes him effective as a defender allowing him to cover a large amount of ice.
Sergachev has a great shot from the point. He can fire the puck high and pick the upper corners, or use a low, very heavy shot that is tough for goalies to control and creates a lot of rebounds. He's got a future as a power play quarterback that can generate offense from the top of the point with his shot.
He's an effective 1-on-1 defender that maintains his gaps well and is rarely beaten.
What I Don't Like:
Sergachev is strong on his skates, but isn't a blazing fast skater. He's not the type of player that is going to be skating the puck end-to-end or joining in the rush frequently. His lack of speed can sometimes make it difficult for him to gain zone entry when bringing the puck into the offensive zone as well.
It's a bit understandable given the weird situation with the Russian team replacing their whole team at the last minute and primarily going with a younger roster. But there was hope that Sergachev would really be a leader and help carry that Russian team. While I don't think he played poorly, he was held off the scoresheet in five games. It's a small sample size that isn't going to do a ton of damage to his stock, but that was an opportunity for him to make a statement and separate himself from the other top defensemen available in the Draft, and he didn't do it.
Sergachev is in a group with three or four other defensemen that are all in the conversation to be the first defenseman selected in this year's Draft. That means he could anywhere from fourth overall at the high end(though very unlikely) all the way down to the 15-20 range depending on who is picking and how they rank their personal list. Personally, I have Sergachev as the top-ranked defenseman on my list, but only ranked 10th overall. I don't think he'll be the first defenseman off the board, but I do think he'll be picked somewhere between 10th and 15th overall.
I don't think Sergachev is quite talented enough to be a franchise defenseman, but will likely be good enough to play on a top pairing and be an offensive threat on the power play. He'll need another year of junior hockey, but given his physical stature, might be ready to compete for an NHL job sooner rather than later.