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Tuesday, Oct 23, 2018
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Lightning need to hold onto Sergachev

Here’s hoping the Lightning hold onto Mikhail Sergachev.

Start the clock on him. Start it right now.

The kid is a keeper.

And he has great timing.

The 19-year-old rookie defenseman has scored his first three NHL goals in his last two NHL games. He has two points in each of his last three NHL games, including a goal and assist in the Lightning’s 7-1 pummeling of the Penguins on Saturday night.

At first, when Sergachev first came over in the Jonathan Drouin trade, I wondered what the rush was to get him in the NHL.

Drouin is Montreal’s leading scorer with two goals and five points, but the Canadiens have only once in eight games.

Sergachev? He has eight points and the Lightning is 7-1-1.

So, what’s the rush in sending him back to Juniors?

The Lightning would be crazy to do it.

The 10th game of the season, Tuesday at Carolina, is key. The Lightning, led by GM Steve Yzerman, has to decide before then whether to send Sergachev back to Juniors in Windsor or burn one year of his entry-level deal.

As Times hockey writer Joe Smith noted, if Sergachev plays more than 40 games with the Lightning this season, he gets one year closer to free agency and the Lightning wouldn’t receive the conditional second-round pick it received from Montreal along with Sergachev.

Decisions, decisions.

Not really.

The kid should stay.

Sergachev has made it a no-brainer.

He still has a lot to learn, he has made his mistakes, but his capacity to learn has been breathtaking. It’s right up there with his confidence.

“I’m a hundred percent confident,” Sergachev said after the Pittsburgh win, which featured him snapping a wrist shot home off a great feed from Steven Stamkos. “It’s the best feeling in the world. You don’t always have that confidence. When you get confident, you start making plays, try to make plays. We have a great team, a fast team, a skilled team. It’s a lot of fun to play with these guys.”

“I said this in training camp with him: From Day One, he said he was going to be on this team,” Stamkos said. “Some people may look at it as a bold statement from a young kid. I look at it as someone who is hungry to be here and who’s confident in his abilities. We’re starting to see that. You can definitely see the comfort level, the confidence level.”

Stamkos expects Sergachev to be with the team after Tuesday.

“Yeah, but we’ll see,” Stamkos said. “Obviously I don’t make those decisions.”

Neither does Lightning coach Jon Cooper, though he’ll have input.

Here was Cooper on Sergachev on Saturday:

“He’s just more assertive now. He’s playing the game faster. He’s playing the game harder. He’s passing the puck with authority now, where even three weeks ago he wasn’t doing that. I’m really impressed with how he’s growing in a short amount of time. It’s just so promising to watch him. You seem him jumping into holes now. His instincts are taking over. … After that, there’s skill. There’s a reason he was a Top-10 pick and we’re seeing that.”

You can be a project and prosper at the same time.

I love the idea of Sergachev’s young legs come playoff time, if there is playoff time.

As for the 10-game mark, Sergachev said it wasn’t on his mind.

“Not really. It’s a new day every day for me. I’ve got to start from the bottom and go up again and gain that confidence, earn my ice time and play my game. Even if I made the team for, say, the 10th game, there’s a chance I can (still) go back to Juniors.”

The Lightning need to let Sergachev live and learn – up here.



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