2016 NHL Draft: Spitfires’ Sergachev proving to be a quick study both on and off the ice

By Jason Menard
Mikhail Sergachev - Windsor Spitfires

Photo: Windsor Spitfires defenseman and 2016 prospect has produced offense from the blueline in 2015-16, posting nine goals and 18 points in 29 games to go along with a +7 rating (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

 

 

If anything, Windsor Spitfires defenseman Mikhail Sergachev has proven that he is a quick study – whether it is picking up offensive notes from the coaches or picking up a new language, the Russian defenseman is showing that he can not only grasp new concepts, but run with them and do it successfully.

“I don’t think it’s been easy, because it’s a new language, new country, new friends – coach, tactics, it’s all new,” Sergachev said. “I think it was hard for the first two or three months. But now I’m good with that and I’m ready to go.”

Sergachev’s English goes from very good to excellent, with only a hint of an accent. It is the second language of one who has studied it for a few years. So, of course, Sergachev must have taken English in school, right?

“No, I didn’t speak English. I knew like five words: hey, hello, what’s up, how are you – that’s it,” he said, adding that immersion in the culture has forced him – in a positive way – to learn the language.

“Yes. I’ve been here for five months and I’m speaking English a lot because Danill got traded and has left me alone,” he said. “I’m talking to my girlfriend every time, teammates, I have an English teacher once a week for two hours that have helped me.”

Danill is former Spitfire Danill Vertiy, who was traded in early November to the North Bay Battalion for a pair of draft picks. But that early time in Windsor with his fellow countryman helped ease the transition.

“My first few months, I was with my friend, Danill Vertiy,” Sergachev explained. “He got traded but he was helping me a lot with my language, billet family, and everything on the ice – just everything. He’s a good guy and he helped me a lot.”

Spitfires’ head coach Rocky Thompson explained that Sergachev’s command of the language has helped him both off and on the ice.

“[His transition has been] great. He speaks the language already. He came in, he immersed himself in the culture, and he’s picked the language up really, really well,” Thompson said. “Now we can communicate with him quite freely and it has helped his learning process.”

The proof is found both on the ice and in the eyes of the scouts. ISS Hockey has rated Sergachev as the 10th-best prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft and the second defenseman, behind only Sarnia’s Jakob Chychrun. NHL Central Scouting had him ranked as a B-level prospect in its preliminary rankings, but one would assume that rating is going to rise, especially in light of his improved offensive game.

Sergachev has nine goals and nine assists in 28 games so far this season, but those numbers should rise dramatically as he is applying some of the lessons that his coaches have been trying to impart – with impressive results.

“He’s been an all-around good defenseman. He’s been aggressive, he’s been great at breaking pucks out. The game looks easy for him when he’s skating, which is good,” Thompson said. “What he needed to do was improve his work on the blueline, offensively, and in the last two games he’s scored four goals, so those offensive things and things we’ve been teaching him are starting to sink in. And now it’s elevating that offensive production for him.”

Sergachev said he wants to work on his offensive game, amongst other things, this season

“Yes, for sure. I want to get a little bit faster on the ice and be more physical and work on the blueline in the offensive line,” he said, adding that he’s pleased with the fact that he’s been regarded so highly by the scouting services. “Exactly yes, because scouts are talking about me. It’s good to be ranked there, but I don’t think about the draft. I just play hockey and help my team.

“I just try to play better and better because I want to be the best player on the ice every shift and every game. I want to be a hard worker.”

It is a long way from Nizhenakamsk, Russia to Windsor, Ontario, but Sergachev said that route represents the most direct path to his goal – and he received a lot of positive reinforcement for his decision.

“I was talking to a lot of guys who had played in the OHL and I was talking to my agent and they said, ‘The best for you is the OHL,’” he said. “I thought about it for a month – about the OHL, about Canada, about a new country and I had a choice to make here. It was the best for me here and hopefully in the next two years I’ll be playing in the NHL.”

Sergachev said he misses some things from Russia – specifically his family. While there is not much in Windsor to remind him of home – like restaurants – he has found some things he enjoys. And, if anything, Sergachev has proven that he is quick to adapt.

“Russian [restaurants]? No. I haven’t seen any,” he said. “But I like an Italian restaurant there – and sushi.”

Follow Jason Menard on Twitter via @JayCMenard