There’s no better way to start your NHL career than scoring your first goal in your first game. This was the case for Montréal Canadiens prospect, Nikita Scherbak, who was able to impress fans in his first ever game with the big club. Scherbak’s story since being drafted is one of hard work, growth and development. After being drafted in the first round of the 2014 NHL entry draft, the weight of the world was on the then 18-year-old forward’s shoulders. Luckily, Scherbak is said to have the necessary traits to survive in a harsh Montreal market.
The Canadiens drafted the young Russian largely due to his uncharacteristic maturity at such a young age. Scherbak is known for handling pressure well, which will surely come in handy throughout his career. Additionally, the winger was selected due to his instinctual offensive skill and vision paired with his size. The Canadiens are hoping that Scherbak will be an important piece in the future of their organization.
The 6 foot 2 Russian winger was selected 26th overall by the Habs. By making the selection, the team bolstered the future of their offense on the right-wing. In his last year in junior hockey, Scherbak tallied 82 points in only 65 games (an average of 1.26 points-per-game). He also proved that he could score in the clutch, as he put up eight points through 11 WHL playoff games.
After such a successful final year in Juniors, Scherbak dealt with many injuries and was only able to play in 48 games in his first AHL season. Worryingly, the winger only scored seven goals and had a differential of -26. His 23 total points only amounted to an average of 0.48 points-per-game.
Though some fans quickly called the youngster a bust, the Canadiens organization knew that the transition from junior to professional hockey was a hard one to make. After putting in a lot of work over the summer, Scherbak was able to improve select aspects of his game prior to starting the 2016-17 season. After making a few adjustments and generally becoming more accustomed to the league, he was able to put up 20 points in 27 AHL games with an even differential prior to his first NHL call-up.
The Tools for Success
What Scherbak accomplished over the last year proves that he, in fact, has the tools to succeed at the professional level. He is showing that other than his size, speed and skill, he has the heart and determination that will allow him to grow and improve with every season. His strong work ethic and drive will push him to continue improving as he gets more and more comfortable playing at the elite level. Proof of this is his great turnaround from 2015-16 to 2016-17 with the IceCaps.
Though it took a few key injuries to make the Scherbak call-up possible, he is trying to prove that he can hang with the pros at the NHL level. The winger will likely only be with the club for a short period of time, though what he learns will help him as he continues on this path to becoming a more complete professional hockey player. Scherbak is getting a taste of the NHL and learning just how much more growth is necessary before he finds himself a full-time job with the Habs.
Here’s the youngster’s first ever NHL goal in his first game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
What the Future Holds
The Canadiens are hoping that Scherbak’s development continues on its current trajectory. The forward will look to continue growing and learning as he will attempt to make his mark on the Canadiens organization in the near future. Habs fans should consider Scherbak’s call up a small taste of what may be a big part of their team’s offensive future. Though the Russian isn’t likely to stay with the big club for the remainder of the season, he could be a serious contender for a roster spot come 2017-2018.
Check out Scherbak’s sense of humour in an interview following his first career goal:
Chantal M: Did your parents get to see the goal?
Scherbak: Oh yeah, I was trying to teach my mom to get on the NHL network for 2 hours.
— Brian Wilde (@BWildeGlobal) January 9, 2017