This is the latest in a series this month looking at each player on the Lightning’s roster.
TAMPA — Mikhail Sergachev spent most of this season providing snapshots of his skills, and perhaps the clearest picture of the Lightning defenseman’s abilities developed in a January home game against the Sharks.
Cedric Paquette broke the puck out of the San Jose zone and passed to sprinting Mathieu Joseph as Ryan Callahan closely followed.
But while the Sharks focused their attention who had to use his speed to get around San Jose defenseman Tim Heed, no one noticed Sergachev making his way toward the net at full speed with a clear path to goalie Martin Jones.
Joseph slipped a pass to Sergachev along the goal line, and all it took was a slight tap for Sergachev to put the puck into the top right corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
The goal was a good one, but it showed a lot more than just some good moves on the ice. It reflected what makes Sergachev special: great skating and stick handling, and a versatility that belies his youth.
Sergachev, who turns 21 next month, this season developed into a player who could fill any defensive void and bring something new to any pairing.
He shuffled around in his 75 games, filling in for Dan Girardi on the top pairing with Victor Hedman during Girardi’s month-long absence due to a lower-body injury as well as playing in his normal third pairing with Braydon Coburn.
When Hedman sat out Games 3 and 4 in the first-round playoff loss to the Blue Jackets, Sergachev paired up with Girardi, again on the top line.
Sergachev stepped up when needed and met the coaches’ varied requests, even in difficult situations. In his second full season with Tampa Bay after arriving from the Canadiens in the Jonathan Drouin trade, he got the job done and often provided a spark to lift up his teammates.
Sergachev didn’t produce the way he did in 2017-18. He had six goals, three fewer than last season, and 26 assists, five fewer. He didn’t have any winning goals after getting five the season before. And he had 10 fewer power-play points with six.
But his defensive contributions maintained stability on the back end as lineups shifted and players were out with injuries. He did have a career-high plus-minus of plus-12.
Next season is the last of his entry-level contract, and he is scheduled to be a restricted free agent in the 2020 offseason.
If he continues playing the way he has, the Lightning will have another solid defenseman.
High: Helping the Lightning bounce back from a loss at Boston with a 5-1 win at home against the Senators on March 2. Sergachev capped off the night with a goal on a one-timer from the blue line.
Low: Being fined for a cross-check on the Sabres’ Johan Larsson on Jan. 12.
By the numbers:
6 goals this season
28 Penalty minutes in 75 games, 10 fewer than he had last season in 79 games
Plus-12 Best rating of his two full NHL seasons, bettering his plus-11 of last season
Contact Mari Faiello at email@example.com. Follow @faiello_mari.