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Nikita Scherbak was a second round pick, 109th overall of the Saskatoon Blades in last year’s CHL Import draft. The Russian winger has come in and made an immediate impact for a rebuilding Blades team that went “all in” for their 2012-13 season, and were pretty depleted this year. He put up 26 goals and 69 points for the Blades despite facing increased attention of opposing coaches putting out their team’s best defenders against him as the season went on. His game really developed as the season went on, as he came over a purely skilled player, but learned to play with more physicality and grit, and also improved on his defensive game. It was quite the learning curve for Scherbak, and has really helped him in draft rankings. However, one area that will continue to hold him back is the ever present “Russian factor” that seems to make almost all Russian prospects fall. Playing in North America, like Nikolay Goldobin and Ivan Barbashev should help, but the current political situation with Russia (re: tensions in the Ukraine), and the rumblings of some economic sanctions the U.S. could consider (including rumors of potentially tightening restrictions on green cards for Russian citizens) could make these prospects fall due to this risk.
Right Wing — shoots Lefts
Born Dec 30 1995 — Moscow, Russia
Height 6.02 — Weight 174 [188 cm/79 kg]
Nikita Scherbak is an excellent skater. His stride may not be textbook, but he has great speed and acceleration despite this. His first step is particularly fast and allows him to be first on many loose pucks. Scherbak also has very good edgework and agility. The acceleration and the edgework makes him very elusive off the rush with his quick cuts, and his ability to generate speed quickly to take advantage of any opening those cuts can create. He has decent balance and is strong on the puck, especially given his frame. This is one area where he can only improve as he adds muscle going forward.
Scherbak is a very good stickhandler who is able to make a wide variety of moves at top speed. Combined with his skating he is extremely elusive on the rush. He also has outstanding vision and great passing skills. Scherbak is also able to utilize these passing skills in the cycle game and works well down low. He will become even more effective when he adds that muscle to his frame which will make even better at protecting the puck. Scherbak is not afraid to battle in the corners or in front of the net though, and plays a gritty style. He also has a very good wrist shot and release which helps him to score goals. Add to this high end hockey IQ and ability to read the game, and you have a potentially dynamic offensive player.
Early in the season, Scherbak looked lost in the defensive end of the ice. However he has made great strides in this area of his game as well. He reads the play very well, and his hockey sense, anticipation, and that quick first step make him very good at closing down passing lanes and causing turnovers. When he does this he is able to smartly transition towards the offense. He has shown more commitment to the back check and takes that increased physicality and grit into all three zones of the ice.
Scherbak’s game is comparable to Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders in terms of style (not a talent comparison just style). In terms of ceiling, he has shown great ability to improve on the weak aspects of his game this year (grit and defence were question marks in September, but no more), and so I could see him as a very effective two-way player in a team’s top two lines.
Here are some highlights of Nikita Scherbak in action.
Check back tomorrow for my number 27 ranked prospect.
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