Mikhail Sergachev looked prime for stardom totaling 40 points as a 19 year old rookie on the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, last season was an apparent step backwards. While everyone else on his team had excellent offensive seasons en route to Tampa winning 62 games, Sergachev’s totals dropped across the board, including only 6 goals and 26 assists in 75 games. So what makes Sergachev a sleeper for this coming season?
The main thing is opportunity. Sergachev has been stuck on the third pair for his first two seasons in Tampa Bay. Now, Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi (why he was playing more than 8 minutes a game is beyond me) are both gone making Sergachev a lock for the top 4. Whether he’s with Victor Hedman or Ryan McDonagh, it doesn’t really matter. We should see Sergachev get 5+ minutes more of ice time per game.
Additionally, Sergachev’s offense at even strength didn’t drop last season. He actually had 2 more points (both assists) at even strength than he did as a rookie. 26 points in 75 games isn’t a huge amount, but if you boost his minutes up by 5 per game, we’re starting to approach 35 even strength points. To go with this, Sergachev now has a clear role on the second power play unit. Kevin Shattenkirk‘s arrival shouldn’t impact this as they should play together. Obviously it’s nowhere near as good as being on the deadly Tampa Bay first unit, but Sergachev dropped from 16 PPP as a rookie to 6. Get back to his rookie totals and we’re already at 50 points simply from playing a bigger role that he has deserved for a while. This doesn’t even get into natural development of a 21 year old, Sure, he’ll go against tougher competition, but that doesn’t outweigh the benefits of getting to play with someone like Hedman, or even McDonagh (it appears likely Sergachev is with Hedman though).
As far as the extra categories go, Sergachev is a near-lock for an elite plus-minus. He’s been a double digit plus in both seasons so far and I’d expect him to be +20 or better on the first pair. The hits and blocks are both solid for those in deeper leagues, and his penalty minutes are decent enough that they aren’t a negative. The thing that could put Sergachev on another level is his shot rate. He’s yet to top two per game which becomes a detriment. Could he get there? I don’t see why not in a bigger role, although I don’t expect him to all of a sudden start putting 200+ SOG this season.
So we have a player who is already very good at even strength moving into the top four (probably top pair) of the best team in hockey. There is a small chance that he struggles against tougher competition, but Sergachev’s pedigree as an elite prospect and third pair crusher indicates that he’ll be just fine. 50 points are well within in the realm of possibility with upside from there if he makes a big jump in year three, or if he gets PP1 time for whatever reason (most likely a Hedman injury). Don’t let last season discourage you; Sergachev should be