BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Montreal Canadiens continue to develop their back end at the NHL draft.
Montreal selected Russian defenceman Mikhail Sergachev with the ninth overall pick at the draft on Friday. The Habs have selected six defenceman in the first round of the draft since 2006 after picking blue-liner Noah Juulsen 26th overall last year.
Selecting Sergachev also offers a potential solution for the future, especially with an aging Andrei Markov.
"In our projections, he could eventually replace Andrei Markov," said Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin. "Andrei still gives some great service, but he's getting older. Sergachev can play on the left or right, he's a big guy who's solid."
The 37-year-old Markov played in all 82 games last season for the Habs but has been hampered by injuries in recent years.
"He (Sergachev) could have gone sixth, seventh or eighth. When our turn came, it was decided that he would be our pick. It was unanimous."
The 17-year-old played for the Windsor Spitfires in 2015-16, leading all Ontario Hockey League defenders with 17 goals in his rookie season.
He also had 40 assists and 57 points, good for third at his position.
"It's pretty special," Sergachev said. "It's a pretty nice feeling since Montreal is a hockey town. It couldn't have happened better."
Sergachev became only the second rookie ever to win the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL's outstanding defenceman, and was also the second youngest ever to do so.
Sergachev skates well for his position and six-foot-two frame, and can be a dangerous offensive element on the back end.
"I would consider myself as a mobile defenceman on offence and defence with a good shot and a good skater," Sergachev said. "I like to evolve in all situations, whether it be on the power play or penalty kill. My model is Drew Doughty because he's the best and I want to become the best."
He was the first defenceman selected in this year's draft.
Sergachev still sees areas of his game that need to be improved upon.
"I have to play with more vigour in front of the net and in the corners of the ice," he said.
It's been a noisy draft week for the Canadiens with speculation involving a trade of star defenceman P.K. Subban. Bergevin tried to put such talk to rest Thursday, insisting that he was not actively shopping Subban.
The Canadiens acquired forward Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks earlier Friday for the 39th and 45th picks at the draft.
Montreal also traded forward Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals for second-round draft picks in 2017 and 2018.
Montreal unravelled last season after losing No. 1 goaltender Carey Price to a knee injury. The club is looking to bolster the roster this season.