As the draft picks started to come down the chute in the SB Nation mock draft, we had two picks on our board as staff: Clayton Keller and Mikhail Sergachyov. We were hoping at least one of them would be left for us at 12th overall. When Avalanche blog Mile High Hockey took Logan Brown, we suddenly had an interesting conundrum: what if both were still left? Thankfully, All About The Jersey did our work for us and took Clayton Keller, leaving us with a unanimous draft choice.
Who is Mikhail Sergachyov? And why is his name sometimes spelled Sergachev? To answer the first question, he’s a Russian defenceman, 6’2" and 220 lbs, who played last season for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. With Windsor, he put up 57 points in 67 regular season games, and five points in five playoff games. Both of those numbers put him third on his team in points. He also put up 56 penalty minutes during the season and eight during the playoffs, which can show either lack of discipline or a mean streak, depending on your leaning. As for the second question, I think it just has to do with converting Russian names from Cyrillic to Latin characters. It’s similar to how Evgeni Malkin becomes "Yevgeni" in international play.
What is most exciting about Sergachyov is how his stock has risen. A year ago at this time, he was seen as a potential first-round pick. He went on to be named the top defenceman in the OHL this season, becoming the youngest player ever to win the honour. He moved from 10th on the mid-term rankings to 8th on the final rankings of NHL Central Scouting's North American skaters. What’s also exciting, for these mock draft purposes, is how 12th is lower than nearly every draft pegged him. Craig Button has Sergachyov as the top defenceman, going 8th overall. Corey Pronman (pay wall warning) put him 9th overall. My NHL Draft put him 10th. Draftsite has him 8th, and also as the top defenceman. Cult of Hockey called him the best defenceman. Today’s Slapshot ranked him 9th. Basically however you slice it, Sergachyov should be taken higher than 12th, and so if he's still available, the Sens should take him.
Hannah Stuart over on TSS had a great recent breakdown of his style. She described Jakob Chychrun as the most physically-ready defenceman of this draft, Olli Juolevi as a smart ice-reading player, and Sergachyov as a sort of hybrid, a player with significant impact at both ends of the ice. His shot, his pass, his skating, and his size have all been rated highly. The only thing that’s been questioned much in his game is his defensive positioning, which seems easier to teach than talent.
Now the biggest red flag as a Sens fan is that he’s Russian. As we all know, the Senators haven't drafted a Russian since 2007. There are no Russians currently in the Sens’ system. It's been three years since a Russian played a game in a Sens uniform. However, I believe the Sens would still make this pick. For starters, there’s a new GM in charge, and he's already made his mark in hiring an intriguing coaching tandem. I think Pierre Dorion would be willing to go in a new, Russian-neutral direction. Sergachyov also played a year in North America, so the KHL threat isn’t nearly as strong. It’s clear he wants to play in North America, and was willing to leave his family at age 16 and move across the world just to make it happen. And finally, the Sens need top-quality prospects, and if Sergachyov is still on the board, he's likely the best guy still available. The Sens need help on defence, both now and in the future, and Sergachyov could fit in well. He could join Thomas Chabot and Colin White in an attempt to replenish a rather barren prospect pool. I think the team’s needs would outweigh any fears over taking a Russian.