It’s hard to ignore Mikhail Sergachev’s 2017-18 production to date. Acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in the off-season for Jonathan Drouin, Sergachev has excelled so far in Tampa. At just 19 years old, he’s produced 23 points (10 with the man advantage) and has shown early chemistry playing alongside Tampa’s offensive firepower. But is Mikhail Sergachev even the Atlantic Division’s best rookie defenseman? Enter Charlie McAvoy.
Charlie McAvoy, another first round pick from the same 2016 NHL draft, is making noise. Also just 19, McAvoy has played big minutes for Boston. Today, we deep-dive into Sergachev and McAvoy’s 2017-18 seasons to date – with focus on puck movement ability, usage, QoC faced, and production.
Player overview: Sergachev a PP specialist, McAvoy playing tougher minutes
Overall point production is similar (23 points for Sergachev vs 19 for McAvoy). Worth noting that 10 of Sergachev’s 23 points have come on the man advantage. In addition, Tampa has been an absolute powerhouse. Kucherov and Stamkos sit atop league scoring rankings. Point, Namestnikov, Johnson, Palat, et al. have all provided offense, too. This team can flat out score goals. Not to take anything away from Sergachev’s offensive production (some of his primary assists and goals have been a pure demonstration of raw talent), but it’s important to factor in that context when comparing straight point production between two players.
The bigger takeaway for me is ice time and usage. McAvoy is logging the biggest and toughest minutes for the Bruins. He plays about 2 minutes of PP time per game (similar to Sergachev) but plays about 50% more minutes at 5v5. In addition, the quality of the minutes he plays is much higher than Sergachev. McAvoy’s QoC is top notch (i.e., he faces the toughest opposing skaters). Sergachev, meanwhile, is more sheltered. We touched on that in detail for Sergachev here.
Puck movement and quality of competition: McAvoy in a class of his own
The chart above is our classic puck movement / QoC chart. The X-axis represents a defenseman’s ability to drive possession and move the puck. Both players have strong scores: McAvoy’s PMF is at +2.50 and Sergachev’s at +2.02. But the big difference comes when looking at the Y-axis which measures QoC. The higher along the axis, the tougher minutes a player faces. For example, being in the top right quadrant means that you drive possession effectively despite playing the team’s toughest minutes.
So what can we conclude? McAvoy’s been an excellent puck mover to date despite playing big, tough minutes. Sergachev’s also excelled, but he’s been much more sheltered by the coaching staff (more O-Zone starts and weaker QoC faced). Can Sergachev produce at the same level if tasked with tougher minutes? That remains to be seen.
Don’t be deceived by Sergachev’s higher point production. If there was an NFL-esque award for rookie defenseman of the year, it would be Charlie McAvoy’s to lose. McAvoy has simply been dominant in his age-19 season. His PMF of +2.50 is top notch, despite playing tough minutes. Boston is on a 5-game winning streak and continues to climb the standings. McAvoy’s stellar play has played a big part in it.
But Sergachev is no slouch – he too has been great in 2017-18. He’s shown flashes of high end offensive talent and has done great QBing the powerplay. But can Sergachev also develop into a reliable top pairing guy? Or, in other words, can he succeed doing what McAvoy is currently succeeding at? Time will tell.