EDMONTON | In 2017, Mikhail Sergachev won the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires. Three years later, the Canadiens' former first-round pick in the 2016 draft could add an even more prestigious title to his young career.
Hours before the third game of the Stanley Cup Final between the Lightning and the Stars, Sergachev compared the two scenes.
“It's different. For the Memorial Cup, we were hosting the tournament and needed just four wins to win, Sergachev recalled. Here we need 16 wins, that's the real playoff format. I find the experience of making a Stanley Cup Final to be great, but I try not to think about it too much. I just want to do my job and not get too excited. ”
In the right place
We will talk about it in several years. While Marc Bergevin generally has a happy hand with his transactions, the Canadiens general manager would probably like to see Sergachev's again.
In search of a renowned striker at the time, Bergevin traded Sergachev on June 15, 2017 at the Lightning to get his hands on Jonathan Drouin.
Sergachev, who was described as the forward-looking defender in Montreal, quickly rose through the ranks in Tampa. He's now a staple at the Lightning Blue Line. The 22-year-old Russian is the third most used player on his team with an average playing time of 22:57.
“The coaches trust me,” said Sergachev. I am now a better defender. I improved my positioning, but still make stupid mistakes. I imagine this can happen to just about anyone. I'm still improving and want to be a better defender. ”
In Tampa, Sergachev is also fortunate to find himself in an ideal environment. On the left flank there is Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh in front of him. So he has two good teachers by his side.
“In my first season in the NHL in 2017-18, Hedman won the Norris,” he recalled. It was amazing to see him play. He is good in all situations. He's also a real pro and a great guy. I learned a lot from him. Outside the ice he is kind and humble. And on the ice, he's a beast. ”
A link with Hedman
In his rookie season in Tampa, Sergachev had 40 points (9 goals, 31 assists) in 79 games. In 2018-19, he finished the year with 32 points (6 goals, 26 assists) in 75 games. This year, the 6-foot-2, 217-lb left-hander already had 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists) in his 70 games before the end of the season.
Jon Cooper has seen his young defender grow up over the years. The Lightning head coach has given him even more responsibility this season, pushing him past the 20-minute average playing time mark. That's an increase of almost two minutes from last year and five minutes from his first season.
“Mikhail needed to know how to defend his territory better, but he already had good offensive instincts,” explained Cooper. He has managed to improve defensively over the past few years and is now a more complete defender. ”
For Cooper, there is no doubt. Sergachev has not finished growing in the NHL.
“I can't say what his full potential will look like. I have been fortunate enough to watch Victor Hedman grow up over the past eight seasons. I notice similarities between the two defenders. For me, Sergachev is still far from his potential. ”
- In 21 games since the start of the playoffs, Sergachev has collected 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) and has a +2 rating.