Thursday, November 23, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Get to know new Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev

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Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev found out he got traded to the Lightning in a wild way.

It wasn't from his agent, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman or Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin.

A fan broke the news.

Sergachev, 18, was on vacation in Cyprus on Thursday, and his phone had trouble receiving calls, so he didn't get one from Bergevin telling him he had been traded by the Canadiens to the Lightning in the Jonathan Drouin blockbuster.

"Some fan texted me and said, 'Good luck in Tampa,' " Sergachev said Friday. "I'm like, 'What?' "

Sergachev, whom the Canadiens picked ninth overall in last year's draft, had just wrapped up a run to the junior Canadian Hockey League's Memorial Cup title with his Windsor team. He had mixed emotions upon hearing the news.

"My first reaction was kind of frustrated and shocked," Sergachev said. "But after that, it's an opportunity for me. I've heard a lot about the (Lightning) organization, and they play fast hockey, they play offensive hockey, (they have) some talented players. And they've got a great coaching staff and management.

MORE DEFENSE COMING? The Lightning isn't done shopping.

"It's awesome."

A lot of hype surrounds Sergachev. Craig Button, an analyst and scout with Canada's TSN TV network, said Sergachev can be a top-pair defenseman. NHL insiders believe he can be a game-changer.

Though Yzerman said the hope is Sergachev makes the Lightning roster out of training camp, it's not a guarantee.

If Sergachev doesn't, he will have to be returned to juniors for another year. Fans might get their first up-close look at Sergachev at the development camp June 27-July 1 in Brandon.

Sergachev thinks he's ready for the NHL.

"I've played a lot in juniors, and I learned a lot in those years," he said. "And I feel like this is my time to play in the NHL, and I'll do my best and play my best to make the Lightning roster."

Here are a few things you should know about the Lightning's newest defenseman:

He's a quick learner

When Sergachev arrived in Windsor, Ontario, from Russia as a 17-year-old, he barely spoke English. But with the help of his host family, Brian and Michelle Reid, Sergachev quickly grasped the language, and he has shown that he has a dry sense of humor.

The Reids started by using Google Translate, but Sergachev did the heavy lifting.

"I swear, he was almost self-taught," Michelle told the Montreal Gazette. "He did have an English teacher that worked with him weekly for maybe an hour, or two hours at most. The kid just honestly worked his butt off."

The Reids are like a second family to Sergachev, whose parents, Alexander and Ludmilla, and younger sister, Anna, remain in Russia.

MORE ON THE SERGACHEV-DROUIN TRADE: For the Lightning, it ultimately will be judged on how Mikhail Sergachev does.

The 'wow' factor

Sergachev is very skilled and offensively gifted, and he often finds himself on highlight reels.

"He does this ridiculous stuff and you say, 'Wow, that's a (great) player right there,' " said Corey Pronman, who covers prospects for espn.com. "He's the kind of a defenseman that can lead the rush like very few others."

Sergachev racked up 43 points (10 goals, 33 assists) in 50 games last season for Windsor of the CHL's Ontario League while playing on the power play and penalty kill. TSN hockey reporter Darren Dreger wrote on Twitter that an Ontario League general manager told him that he thinks Sergachev might have more offensive upside than Lightning Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman. Now that's high praise.

Also important is that one of Sergachev's strengths, carrying the puck out of the zone, was one of the Lightning's weak points last season.

"He can control a game," TSN's Button said.

He 'gets it'

Sergachev was on a makeshift Russian team at the Under-18 world tournament in 2016 after much of the original team was replaced due to a doping scandal. Sergachev and other under-17s took their place in the tournament at Grand Forks, N.D. Sergachev was one of a few invited from the Canadian Hockey League.

Though Sergachev was one of the oldest Russians, and at the time a projected top-10 draft pick, he wasn't named captain. But he gladly deferred to the Under-17 captain, Klim Kostin.

Button said, "(Sergachev) told me, 'You know, he knows all these younger players better than I do. I just want to support him. My country needs me. I need to be there for them to help the young guys.'

"That's a pretty selfless guy. He gets it."

He could be NHL-ready

Sergachev believes he can make the jump to the NHL next season, and the Lightning will give him every chance during training camp. Yzerman said Sergachev, at 6 feet 3 and 212 pounds, is strong enough to play in the league. The key is determining if he would get enough minutes to warrant not returning him to Windsor.

"I have no doubt he can play in the NHL next year," Button said.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

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