Nikita Scherbak was the Montreal Canadiens’ first round draft pick, 26th overall, in 2014. Scherbak is a speedy 20-year-old winger with great offensive upside. He is sure to offer an offensive boost to the Canadiens when he is ready to play at the NHL level. For now, however, Scherbak is developing in the Canadiens’ farm system. Scherbak has played nine games thus far this season, and he has scored three points.
Scherbak was a late pick in one of the deeper drafts of the last few years. The 6’2 forward has the size, and the skill that the Canadiens covet so much. Thus far, his time with the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, St. John’s IceCaps has been tough; Scherbak has missed the majority of the first half of the season with injuries. He had a foot injury that kept him on the sidelines, before returning and being the victim of a huge open ice hit that put him back on the shelf.
With only three points through nine games, Scherbak isn’t exactly living up to expectations. The highly-skilled winger is known for racking up points. In his last year playing junior hockey, Scherbak recorded 27 goals and 55 assists for 82 points in 65 games. That said, there is a big difference between junior hockey and the AHL. Scherbak’s development will progress slowly, as he learns to play hockey with adults who either are bigger and stronger than him, have more experience than him, or both. As Scherbak grows and becomes accustomed to life at the professional level, his production will improve.
Habs fans shouldn’t panic when it comes to a young prospect like Nikita Scherbak, as his skill and raw talent will eventually shine through. Canadiens’ GM, Marc Bergevin, was very open about saying that Scherbak’s attitude and personality was a part of the reason that the Habs drafted him. The Russian forward is said to have the mental toughness and maturity of a veteran, which should help him get through the rough transition to pro hockey.
What to Expect from Nikita Scherbak:
Though Scherbak is developing slowly in his first year playing pro for the St. John’s IceCaps, he is set to be a solid top-six NHL forward at some point in the future. Scherbak definitely isn’t ready for the NHL yet, and it is much more likely that fellow forward prospects Michael McCarron, and Charles Hudon make the NHL before him. Habs fans and management know how important it is to give prospects the time that they need to develop. If the Canadiens give Scherbak the time that he needs, we should expect to see him back with the IceCaps for at least one more season.
It can be expected that Scherbak’s production increases greatly over the next season or so of his professional career, assuming he stays in the AHL. The expectation for the young prospect is that he will be ready for the NHL to start the 2017-18 season, however, the Canadiens have learned that players decide their own timeline to the big leagues. Maybe Scherbak will need more time to develop than what was expected, and maybe he will surprise the organization and develop faster than expected. Only time will tell for this type of player.
In the next few years, Scherbak will need to improve his physical strength and defensive ability if he wants to be an effective NHL’er one day. At 6’2, 190 pounds, he will need to bulk up if he wants to play with the big boys in the NHL. The young prospect has always been seen as offensive minded. That said, in today’s NHL, two-way forwards are becoming hugely important. Scherbak will look to work on his defensive game in his time in the AHL, before making the jump to the big leagues. His eventual jump to the NHL likely won’t be as tough as it was for him to come to North America, since there is a group of Russian-speaking players in the Canadiens lineup. These players – like Alex Galchenyuk, Alexei Emelin, and Andrei Markov, will help the young Scherbak adjust and feel comfortable when he is ready for the NHL.
Nikita Scherbak will be an effective NHL’er one day, the question is: when? Only he has the ability to control his future, since the Canadiens are sure to be as patient as needed with his development. The sample is small in the AHL when it comes to Scherbak’s production, though he will surely pick up his game as he settles into the league. Look for Scherbak to help out the Canadiens up front in the coming years.
Check out this fun exchange on Twitter between Carey Price and Nikita Scherbak. Price wished Scherbak a happy 20th birthday in Russian. (Scherbak turned 20 on December 30th).
@nikscherbak С днем рождения!
— Carey Price (@CP0031) December 30, 2015