Prospect of the Week: January 15, 2013

After a break for the World Junior Championships, we continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for January 15 is … Artem Sergeev, D, Val-d’Or (QMJHL – Canada)

Artem Sergeev is what we call a “bonus pick.” He went undrafted twice, but the Lightning saw enough in him last season to commit an NHL contract to him as a free agent on July 1.

Sergeev is a two-way defenseman who is underrated in his own end. He has decent size (6-1) and is a good skater with a high hockey I.Q. The prevailing thought on the Russian blueliner coming into this year was he wasn’t the sum of his parts. Although he made the Russian World Junior team a year ago, he posted only 27 points in 64 games with Val-d’Or last season. Scouts expected more of the right-handed rearguard.

The Lightning liked him enough to give him a contract and they’ve been rewarded for that decision as Sergeev is quickly becoming what scouts always thought he could be – a legitimate threat at both ends of the ice.

This past week, Sergeev had three assists in three games, including two assists in Saturday’s win over the Quebec Remparts that gave him at least a point in 10 consecutive games. His career-long streak began on November 16. He had 13 points in those 10 games before the streak was snapped on Sunday.

For the year, Sergeev, an alternate captain with the Foreurs, has five goals and 21 assists in 32 games. His career high for points in a season was set two years ago when he accumulated 27 points in 64 games. He is well on his way to surpassing those totals. His current plus/minus rating of plus-11 is 24 better than his previous best.

Despite missing three weeks of QMJHL play with Russia for the WJCs for the second year in a row (he had two assists in seven games for the bronze medalists), Sergeev is still tied for 10th in the QMJHL in points by a defenseman.

Sergeev, who was ranked No. 23 in our most recent top-25 Lightning prospect rankings, will make his professional debut full-time next year for either Syracuse of the AHL or the Lightning’s ECHL affiliate, currently the Florida Everblades.

At the end of Sergeev’s three-year contract, which begins when he starts playing professionally, the Lightning and its scouts can see if he’s knocking at the door of the NHL and worth another contract. He’s making them look good so far.

Previous 2012-2013 Prospect of the Week winners:

World Juniors break
December 17, Alex Killorn, C/W, Syracuse, AHL-Canada
December 10, Nikita Kucherov, RW, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL-Canada
December 3, Cedric Paquette, C, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL-Canada
November 25, Tyler Johnson, C, Syracuse, AHL-USA
November 20, Richard Panik, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
November 12, Alex Hutchings, W, Florida, ECHL-USA
November 5, Nikita Kucherov, W, Quebec, QMJHL-Canada
October 30, Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough, OHL-Canada
October 23, Dustin Tokarski, G, Syracuse, AHL-USA
October 15, Cory Conacher, W, Syracuse, AHL-USA
October 9, Cedric Paquette, C, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL-Canada
October 2, Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Ufa Jr, MHL-Russia
September 25, Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Ufa Jr, MHL-Russia