Slovak Michal Sersen was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the fifth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft following his first season in the QMJHL with the Rimouski Oceanic. He showed some promise as a two-way defenseman with 25 points in 45 games, and the following season he improved on his rookie season and collected 42 points (nine goals) in 67 games. That Oceanic team, of course, had Sidney Crosby leading the way to the Memorial Cup and Sersen carried his share of the weight into the finals where the team lost to the powerhouse London Knights team.
In the offseason, Sersen was traded to the Quebec Remparts for a second round draft pick and he saw his offensive production improve again. His goal total jumped to 22 and he had 57 assists for an impressive 79 points total, which was the second best total in the Q for defenseman, just five back of Keith Yandle (PHO).
Sersen had an impressive year with Patrick Roy’s Remparts and shows great promise as a future pro but the deadline for the Penguins to sign him is upon us.
Hockey’s Future spoke three times with Sersen during the Memorial Cup week, the first of which occurred the day after the Remparts earned their first victory of the tournament, a 6-3 win over the Vancouver Giants.
HF: Regarding the game last night, coming out in the third, was there any change of approach from the first two periods?
MS: Yeah we turned it around 360 degrees, all of the team. You could see two teams yesterday. We didn’t want to lose that game because if we lost that game yesterday (3-2 loss to the Peterborough Petes) it would mean a lot because you never know what’s going to happen next game – it could be over for us in the tournament, so we needed to win this game.
Everybody stepped up. We started playing our hockey because obviously the first period and the second period we played awful hockey. We didn’t take shots, we didn’t skate, we didn’t work hard, we did nothing. But after that we just, I don’t know,(laughing), we turned it around and switched up. Everybody I think just realized how important it was to win the game and you could see it. We scored five unanswered goals and it was important to win this game, and we won it.
HF: How do you feel you’re playing individually in the first two games of the tournament?
MS: I feel pretty good, you know. I feel pretty confident out there. I get a lot of ice time. I feel great when I have the puck. I think I’m playing solid hockey right now.
HF: Has Pittsburgh been talking to you at all this year?
MS: Well they’re talking to my agent, they don’t talk to me. Hopefully after the season I’m going to get something from them, you know (smiling).
HF: As a player, how do you feel you’ve developed the past few years in junior hockey?
MS: At first when I came from Europe I had to adjust to different rules and everything but I improved more, almost all the facets of the game. Skating ability, physical play and everything since I’m playing junior. Here is a better league than in Europe and what we have in Slovakia, so obviously I get better. I mean, probably all the stuff I do [is better], skating, hitting, shooting, making decisions with the puck.
HF: Your power play in Quebec is quite good, how do you playing with those guys?
MS: Yeah, I really like it. Right now I’m on second unit power play. All I have to do is move the puck and put it on the net and that’s it. I feel pretty comfortable. The guys on the first power play they work pretty good [together]. We have a few chances all the time when we have the power play. I think it’s pretty good but we just have to put the puck in the net.
HF: For Pittsburgh fans who haven’t seen you yet, how would you describe yourself as a player to them?
MS: I think I’m maybe a two-way defenseman, offensive defenseman but also can play in the defensive zone. I can improve, I can get better around our net in defensive zone, one on one, body position and everything. I think I got a solid shot and I like to hit when I have a chance. I finish my checks, and that’s it (smiling).
HF: What was it like having a celebrity as a coach this year?
MS: It was pretty cool, you know. Patrick Roy is a star, everybody knows him. Sometimes it’s an advantage and sometimes it’s not. Like you can see it here, not a lot of people like him (laughing). Or, actually, they don’t know if they like him or not because as a coach they don’t really like him but they look at a few years back because they really loved him because he was a star. He’s just great.
HF: What types of things did he push on you guys this year? What approach does he have?
MS: He’s the kind of coach who really likes to work hard and he wants it from the players too. He doesn’t like cheaters or someone who has no passion for the game. He’s a hard worker and that’s what he wants from his players.
HF: This week, all the attention goes to him first usually even though you have a number of talented players on your team. Do you think that helps you guys?
MS: Maybe, because there is no pressure or nothing. The pressure is on him because he’s the coach and ex-NHL player so I think it helps us. We don’t have that much pressure and he can handle it so it’s great for us.
HF: You guys had a really long playoff run. Is that the main reason you’re getting rest here this week rather than more practices?
MS: Yeah that’s right we played a tough series against Bathurst. It was a really good series, seven games. Then against Moncton it was six games, four of them went into overtime so it’s been really tough. So the coaches decided to have days off, no practices just sometimes light practice and I think it’s a good strategy (laughing).
Next, Hockey’s Future spoke with Sersen as he came off the ice following a practice the day before the finals, which attracted a large audience of Monctonites and hockey fans.
HF: How are you guys feeling for tomorrow?
MS: We’re feeling great. We’re confident. We had three days off. We have fire right now and we’re just waiting for who we play against. We feel good.
HF: A high-energy practice today, is that just to keep you guys sharp for tomorrow?
MS: Yeah, yeah, sure. We can’t take two or three days off right now. We need to keep skating. It’s the last game of the season so we have to be ready for it.
HF: How is this compared to last year’s Memorial Cup?
MS: Well last year I think for me personally because last year we didn’t have a day off but now we have three days off. Right after we played the semi-final [last year] we played the final, so that is the biggest difference I think.
HF: You would have preferred to be out playing then, instead of having this long wait?
HF: How do you feel about the teams themselves? How do you feel about the difference in the teams?
MS: The difference last year and this year, London had a really great team last year and it was really tough to beat them but now we know we can beat both of the teams [we could] play, either Moncton or Vancouver because we’ve already beat them.
HF: But also, your own team, you and (goaltender) Cedric (Desjardins) came over to Quebec, how do you feel this team is different than Rimouski last year?
MS: It’s tough to compare because it’s a different year but I think we’ve got a more complete team this year, so I’d say we have a good chance to win this.
Finally, Hockey’s Future met with Sersen at center ice as he and his Remparts teammates celebrated a 6-2 victory over the Moncton Wildcats to win the Memorial Cup. Sersen was named to the tournament All-Star team and had a goal and two assists in total as well as a +6 plus/minus rating.
HF: The second time is a charm for you. How good are you feeling now?
MS: (smiling) It’s been great. Second time I had this chance and this time we did it and I’m really proud I could be part of this, really happy. It’s just a great feeling.
HF: Is this it for you with junior?
MS: This is like the Stanley Cup of junior hockey so obviously that’s what I want. I was playing here for three years and that’s why I came here and I won it.
HF: Your final game in junior is a win.
MS: There’s nothing better than finishing the season with the W.
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.