The top defence prospect of the 2016 draft has long been Jakob Chychrun. Lately, however, Olli Juolevi has been making a push, in part bolstered by being on such a dominant team.
However, there’s a third defenceman hovering around those two. Maybe not always ranked right on their level, but still ranked pretty high up there, and expected to go in the top 10.
Mikhail Sergachev turns 18 on the second day of the draft. He’s 6’3, 206 lbs., and just coming off of his first season in North America, opting to play his draft year for the Windsor Spitfires instead of in his native Russia. It got him First Team All-Star Honours, so clearly, it wasn’t a bad choice.
A dominant two-way defenceman whose tenacity and competitiveness characterize his style of play. Plays with a poise and confidence that facilitates his creativity with the puck as well as split-second decision making. Naturally fluid skater who is always looking to be engaged, if not the center, of each unfolding play. All-in-all, a diligent two-way defenceman who excels at finding ways to be a difference-maker in games.
Sergachev has anchored Windsor’s top pairing since the season began, logging minutes on both the top power play and penalty killing units. He possesses above-average speed, and owns a powerful stride which makes him difficult to stop when in full flight. Additionally, Sergachev is a mobile playmaker from the back end, capable of connecting on and receiving difficult passes, whether up the ice or diagonally through a maze of sticks. Most impressive is his hard shot, which he can fire with substantial velocity from the point’s deepest areas. The pace and complexity of the next level shouldn’t intimidate him, but his slot coverage is one area where he must improve to complete his development.
He’s such an explosive skater and when you combine that with his puck control, creativity, and aggressiveness in jumping up in the play, you’ve got a defender who constantly pushes his way across the blueline to create scoring chances. I also love Sergachev’s ability and poise when running the point on the powerplay. He possesses an absolute laser of a shot, specifically his one timer, which resulted in a league leading 17 goals from the blueline. Defensively, there are no doubt holes. His reads off the rush and in coverage are a work in progress. And he could stand to pick his spots a bit better when he chooses to jump up in the play. But here’s the thing. The physical tools that he possesses suggest that his defensive game can and will improve. He’s a willing physical combatant and can really lay the boom on forwards who try to go through him to the net. He’s also a fantastic skater, which often covers up a lot of his errors at this level. If you’re taking Sergachev early, you believe in his potential to be a perennial NHL all star, and I definitely see that.
Sergachev’s 57 points didn’t just make him Windsor’s highest-scoring defenceman, but their third-highest scoring player, too. The Spitfires were a fifth-seeded team this past season going up against the Kitchener Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. While they staved off a sweep by winning Game 4, the Rangers still brought them down in five; Sergachev was a point-per-game defenceman while trying to fight for a better fate, making him one of the higher-scoring playoff players on his team as well.
Out of the entire OHL he was second in points among defencemen, behind only Rasmus Andersson. The third-highest scoring defender, Chychrun, was a full eight points behind him, albeit in five fewer games played.
It should be noted, however, that 31 of Sergachev’s 57 points came on the powerplay. He scored just 25 points at even strength (one assist was shorthanded), which was good for eighth out of all OHL defencemen, and still ahead of both Chychrun and Juolevi.
Forty of Sergachev’s points (all situations) were primary: either a goal or a first assist. He was the top-ranked OHL defenceman in this stat, ahead of Cam Dineen (second, and also draft-eligible) by five points, and Chychrun and Juolevi by 11 and 13 points, respectively.
Simply put, there’s no doubting Sergachev’s ability to create offence. And he’ll shoot – and score – from just about anywhere, although the point is a respected favourite spot. Via Prospect-Stats:
Fit with the Flames
The Flames already have a pretty established top three defenders with Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton. They don’t have a set top four quite yet, but anyone ranging from Jakub Nakladal getting a chance, to Sergachev’s fellow First Team All-Star selection, Rasmus Andersson, to someone with an unusual (but impressive) year like Oliver Kylington could fill that hole.
Nobody’s a guarantee, though. As it currently stands, the Flames have a really good top three – but it falls off after that.
Sergachev has size and two-way ability. He could be a reach at sixth overall, or he could look like a brilliant pick. He scored at greater rates than his counterparts in Chychrun and Juolevi (all three defencemen being left-handers), and sure, he may have some defensive inefficiencies to work on – but what 17-year-old doesn’t?
Drafting Sergachev may seem like loading up in one area while others need help, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help the Flames – whether it be via trading him, trading someone else, or just plain playing him to create a potentially stacked defence core.
If the Flames really, really, really love Sergachev, they might just take him at sixth overall. It would be a bit of a stretch by most draft rankings, but not an egregious one. All of the tools seem to be there: it’s just a matter of developing them and seeing his potential come together.
He should be a good player. The major question here is, if the Flames take him, just what would they be planning for their defence group?
Previous draft targets: Alexander Nylander | Pierre-Luc Dubois | Matthew Tkachuk | Jakob Chychrun | Olli Juolevi | Clayton Keller | Alex DeBrincat | Sam Steel | Vitalii Abramov | Jake Bean | Tyson Jost