Introducing Nikita Scherbak

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Under the Marc Bergevin era in Montreal, the Habs have seen a dramatic increase of quality prospects being added to the organization. It’s been a long time since Montreal has had such a variety and quality in their prospect pool but of their current prospects, Nikita Scherbak just might be the most interesting of them all.

Going into the 2013-14 season, Scherbak wasn’t exactly on the hockey world’s radar. Names like Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett and Leon Draisaitl occupied most of the headlines. But eventually scouts started to notice Scherbak. Playing on an awful Saskatoon Blades team, Scherbak carried that team on his back despite the fact he was a rookie and it was his first season playing in North America. He would be the WHL’s highest scoring rookie and his combination of size, skill and hockey IQ landed him squarely in the discussion to go in the first round. For Ben Kerr’s full Pre-Draft Scouting Report on Scherbak, Click Here.

Nikita Scherbak would go from unknown to being the first Russian taken in the 2014 NHL draft at 26th overall ahead of the more hyped names in Ivan Barbashev and Nikolay Goldobin. It isn’t unusual to see prospects storm up the rankings in their draft year but Scherbak seemingly came out of nowhere. He was one of the last players taken in the CHL import draft and landing with a bad team in Saskatoon initially had him out of the spotlight.

Interesting comparisons have already been made between Scherbak and current Montreal youngster Alex Galchenyuk. Both have the Russian connection (despite Galchenyuk being an official American), they look similar, are about the same size and similarities in their styles of play are evident despite Scherbak being a winger and Galchenyuk being a natural centre. But it’s the fact that they are a winger and centre respectively that breeds the possibility of them potentially playing on a line together one day.

Off the ice, Scherbak has charmed the infamous Montreal media with his personality. His enthusiasm to try out his English, his honesty and sense of humour has the media eating out of his hand. It isn’t uncommon for young players especially Europeans who don’t have a full grasp of the English language to be uncomfortable in front of the NHL media for the first time but Scherbak has embraced it.

It’s been a long time since the media has been so infatuated with a prospect like they are with Nikita Scherbak; you could say the last one to do that was PK Subban. Every Montreal prospect gets attention in some way but some more than others. The first rounders are hounded as are the ones who come from French backgrounds. Even during the draft interviews, Scherbak was the best interview there as even TSN’s James Duthie tweeted after his interview with him “I’m not supposed to have favourite players, but…#Scherbakrules.”

Nikita Scherbak has the highest ceiling of Montreal’s forward prospects. Jacob de la Rose is a question mark to reach a 2nd line, and may end up a third liner. Michael McCarron and Jeremy Gregoire, project more as third and fourth liners. But unlike the other forwards who have top six potential like Charles Hudon, Tim Bozon, Artturi Lehkonen and Martin Reway, Scherbak has the size some of them lack to his advantage and so far no injury or health issues.

Nikita Scherbak’s package of high end skill and size make him a very valuable prospect as many hope he can reach his potential as a top six forward. But it’s his personality that has Scherbak winning over fans and cementing him as a future fan favourite for the Habs. In a game that has become so serious even at the draft sometimes, Scherbak has brought an element of fun and boyish innocence. His tantalizing potential has Habs fans excited to what he can bring to the ice including off ice where some humourous interviews are sure to be in order.

 

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