Examining the Habs’ 2014 Draft Picks

Nikita Scherbak

The 2014 NHL Entry Draft just wrapped up, so let’s take a look at this year’s selections. The Habs made six picks this year, kicking it off by selected the gritty and skilled winger, Nikita Scherbak. The Habs traded up for Brett Lernout and took a virtual unknown–Nikolas Koberstein. They closed the draft by taking two highly skilled projects, Daniel Audette and Jack Evans, and a second-year eligible, Hayden Hawkey.

 

Nikita Scherbak
26th overall (1st round)
RW/LW 6’02 174 Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Regular Season: 65GP 28G 50G 78P 

An unknown last season, Scherbak really made his name known following a tremendous rookie season in the WHL. Scherbak owns a tremendous package of skills and versatility. He has the ability to play all three forward positions (however, mainly played right wing) and has a strong desire to improve his game.

Scherbak is a tremendous puck possession player, combining his 6’02″ 175-pound frame and hands effectively. He loves to use his reach and body to push defenders to the brink, only to find an open player with a slick pass. His vision is outstanding and he can create something out of nothing. He protects the puck exceptionally well, due to tremendous body positioning and balance. He’s also a pretty good skater; although improvement in his technique and acceleration are needed. Agility-wise, he’s well above-average for a player his size and is extremely evasive. Additionally, Scherbak owns a hard wrist shot, with good accuracy and a quick release. He’s blessed with a very slick set of hands and plays a tremendously smart offensive game. Simply put, he’s the total package offensively.

Scherbak also isn’t afraid to muck it up. He can be an aggressive player, laying big hits from time to time. He also drives the net with a purpose and isn’t afraid to run over the opposition. He’s great at working the cycle and really loves to challenge defenders along the boards. When going, he’s a great forechecker, combining excellent anticipation, an active stick, and a desire to hit.

Defensively, Scherbak can look quite disengaged. He doesn’t show enough urgency outside of the opposition’s blue line. It’s not that he’s a bad defensive player–when he comes to play he fairs quite well–but he doesn’t play bring the effort often enough.

Scherbak’s skill level indicates a much higher pick than 26th. He’s a dynamic threat who did so much with very little. This looks like a tremendous pick for Montreal at this point; however, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Quotes:

“[Scherbak’s] got tremendous skill and offensive hockey sense. He’s a player with a lot of flair. We see him as a player with a top two projection . . . He’s a player with a lot of talent, but he also has a lot of character and personality. We like the way he plays, plays more of a North American style.” – Trevor Timmins (Habs Director of Amateur Scouting)

“He comes from an athletic background as his father is a former soccer player, his mother a basketball player, while his sister plays tennis.  Throughout the year I heard many rumblings that NHL teams liked him more than Draisaitl, but that was before Leon turned things up in a big way in the second half of the year.  There’s still many things to like about this player and my jaw wouldn’t hit the floor if a team took a shot at him in the top 15 selections.” – Cody Nickolet (WHL From Above)

“The best thing about him is that he’s very coachable and teachable. Because he can skate he can get on the puck. But when he’s not on it right away he’s not afraid to make or take a hit. When you’ve got that part of a game from a Russian player it’s exciting.” – David Struch (Saskatoon Blades Head Coach)

“While we were in training camp and waiting for his papers to be finished so that he could join us on the ice, he sat in the players’ box and rode a stationary bike while we practiced and played. When he finally got his release, the coaching staff went to show him our systems and he showed us our systems. He picked up everything just from watching our practices and games.” – David Struch (Saskatoon Blades Head Coach)

“I want to play in the NHL with the best guys in the world. I play (in) Russia when I was 15 years old and I know what that’s (like). I don’t want to stay here. ‘Russian factor’ is not my problem.” – Nikita Scherbak (Quote via the Star Phoenix)

Read more here: Habs Select Nikita Scherbak 26th Overall.

 

Brett Lernout
73rd overall (3rd round)

RD | 6’04″ 205 Swift Current Broncos (QMJHL)
Regular Season: 72GP 8G 14A 22P Playoffs: 6GP 0G 1A 1P

Brett Lernout (third from the left) Photo: Southwest Booster

Brett Lernout (third from the left)
Photo: Southwest Booster

The Habs traded the 87th overall pick and the 117th overall pick in order to select Brett Lernout, clearly showing that they valued him as a prospect.

Lernout is a physical specimen and he knows it. Few players can match his brute strength and he’s got tons of room to grow. He can lay absolutely massive hits and is extremely aggressive along the boards. He clears the crease with a purpose and doesn’t back down from anyone. He’s also a more than willing pugilist. He’s a very hard player to play against because of his natural aggressiveness. But he doesn’t just run around looking for hits. He understands positional hockey and rarely takes himself out of position to make a hit. He possesses an active stick, which he uses extremely well to defend, particularly off the rush. He owns good hockey sense, but his decision making must continue to improve. Down low, he can get too overzealous in chasing the puck carrier, taking himself out of position.

For a player of his stature, Lernout’s skating ability is quite impressive. Both lateral movement and top-end speed are surprisingly good. Additionally, Lernout’s first few steps are solid and he can use his long, powerful stride to out-skate fast forwards. There’s still room to improve, but no doubt his skating is well above-average. Using his mobility, he’s able to close the gap quickly on forwards. He’s aggressive in his gap control and doesn’t leave much room for players to beat him. Rarely does he get beat in one-on-one situations.

Lernout offensive ability mainly stems from his shot. He owns a rocket from the point, but his accuracy needs work. It’s a similar story for his outlet pass–crisp, but can be erratic. He’s shown some quality offensive instincts, but in that regard there hasn’t been much consistency. In his own zone, Lernout loses the puck too often. He blindly clears it, even if better options are available. On the powerplay, he actually performs quite well, especially as the trigger man. He typically shoots for a rebound or a deflection, but there’s no doubt he has the ability to hammer the puck past the goaltender. With more confidence and powerplay time, Lernout could improve his point totals significantly.

At this point, Lernout is a long-term project. Considering his late-’95 birthday, he very well could use an overage year in the WHL. He spent much of his time with Brycen Martin, a talented, but not particularly impressive defensive player. He experienced tremendous growth throughout the season, but he still has a long way to go.

Quotes:

“We made that trade to move up. We wanted to make sure that we got a chance to draft Brett. He’s a big, strong, strapping, defenceman. He’s tough–tough as nails–and has a heavy shot . . . We wanted to added some size on defence, players of his type, and he was a good fit for us there.” – Trevor Timmins (Habs Director of Amateur Scouting)

“A raw and powerful human.  Doesn’t do anything that will wow you, just very solid all around.  Skating has improved, but still not too much above average.  He’s very rugged and mean.  Makes an ok first pass.  Has a hard shot.  I know some teams really, really like him, enough for him to earn an invite to the draft combine.  Probably ends up as a 4th or 5th round pick.” – Cody Nickolet (WHL From Above)

“Brett showed good improvement through the course of the season. A toolsy player with great size, strength, and skating abilities. He’s still raw, but if given time to develop, he should become the type of physical defenseman, that teams love to have and hate to play against.” – Scott McDougall (Hockey Prospect’s Black Book)

At the beginning of the season I wouldn’t have expected to get much notice, but I think I’ve earned it as the season has went on. I’ve worked hard to take steps forward and I think I’ve made big steps forward with my defensive game and stuff like making the first pass to get out of the defensive zone.” – Brett Lernout (Quote via Yahoo! Sports)

 

Nikolas Koberstein
125th overall (5th round)
RD | 6’02” 201 Olds Grizzlys (AJHL)
Regular Season: 55GP 5G 13A 18P Playoffs: 9GP 0G 2A 2P

Photo: College Hockey Inc.

Photo: College Hockey Inc.

I know nothing about Koberstein other than his stat line. He led all Grizzlys’ defencemen in points and finished ninth in team scoring. He was also named to the AJHL All-Rookie Team.

The Regina Pats selected him in the 7th round, 135th overall in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft. However, Koberstein committed to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks for the 2015-2016 season. However, he seems like a long-term project, making the NCAA route seem much more likely.

I will update when more information becomes available. Instead, I suggest focusing on the quotes below.

Quotes:

“His ability to compete night in and night out is very special. His ability to see the ice and make a good first pass is phenomenal. That’s something we noticed in him and we know that when Montreal came, that’s one thing they talked to us about.” – Brett Hopfe (Olds Grizzlys Head Coach)

“Koberstein was a guy who went under the radar . . . We spent some time with him after the season the season and I think this guy has good upside and long-range projection. He’s a great kid with tons of character, but he’s a good hockey player, too . . . He’s a five-year player. The plan is right now that he will go back to [the Olds Grizzlys]. He’ll be the captain, he’ll be the leader; he’ll play there another year then go to the NCAA route, where he will be for four years.” – Trevor Timmins (Habs Director of Amateur Scouting)

“Nikolas has come to our team and stepped right into a top role for us. He works extremely hard every day and loves to learn the game.” – Brett Hopfe (Olds Grizzlys Head Coach)

“[Nikolas] getting drafted, in my mind, is a no-brainer. A team would be very, very fortunate because with him being down on the list, he’s not going to be a top three round pick. However, his upside, with being committed to Fairbanks and their commitment to developing him further, essentially, the ceiling for him is the NHL.

He’s going to have another great year this year, because the kid just works hard–just an honest player. Great leader, obviously, with the guys voting on him to be captain and that’s the present guys and the guys that were moving on. It’s going to be a treat to watch him develop further this year and follow his career over the next decade.” – Brett Hopfe (Quote via Rock 104.5)

“The coaches [at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks] are fantastic and it’s great organization up there. It’s really family-type group of people. The coaches came down here and met with me more than once . . . I’ve dreamt about [having my name called at the draft] my entire life. It would be something else . . . I’ll be focusing on the little details [this summer] because they make such a big difference.” – Nikolas Koberstein (Quote via Rock 104.5)

 

Daniel Audette
147th overall (5th round)

| 5’09″ | 176  Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Regular Season: 68GP 21G 55A 76P

Photo: Sherbrooke Phoenix

Photo: Sherbrooke Phoenix

The son of Donald, Daniel, is an absolute speedster. The QMJHL’s former first overall pick can flat out fly. He gets up to top speed in a hurry and owns an explosive first few steps. His top-end speed is excellent and he always keeps his feet moving–making his skating ability dynamic. At full speed, Audette appears to have the puck on a string. His hands are lightning quick, allowing him to make beating even the best defenders look easy. He’s a flashy, electrifying talent. On the powerplay, Audette is fantasitc. Nearly 50% of his points came from the man-advantage.

Audette is a terrific playmaker. His saucer pass is quite special. The situation doesn’t matter, Audette can seemingly always make a beautiful tape-to-tape pass. Down low, he’s a great as well as sneaky passer. His head is always up, evaluating all of his options.

Additionally, Audette knows how to score. Owns an accurate shot with a quick release, which he doesn’t use enough. He’s also good at scoring down low, as he sneaks away from defenders with ease and can make them pay. He’s got extremely good hands, which he uses to fool goaltenders.

Defensively, Audette has improved. He’s a solid penalty killer, mainly due to his speed. At five-on-five, he doesn’t particularly shine. He plays solid positional hockey, but he looks disengaged far too often.

Don’t be fooled by his penalty minutes–he’s not a particularly tough player. He clearly doesn’t like being hit and can often shy away from the hard areas depending on the game. He gets pushed off the puck easily and can be extremely undisciplined. However, there are flashes of him becoming a gritty player, especially later in this past season. He can play with a purpose and certainly has the ability to be a pest. Along the boards, he loses more battles than he wins. Clearly, that will never be his strong suit, but he has to improve his body positioning and willingness to engage.

Audette is certainly a home run swing. His skill level is top-notch, but lacking in other areas caused him to fall to the Habs. By the end of his QMJHL career, he very well could be among the league’s best players.

Quotes:

“We took Donald right out the equation in all our draft meetings, any discussions, we asked Donald to leave the room. On Thursday I talked about us wanting to get bigger, stronger, faster, but at the same time, if there’s a player that’s undersized there and he’s a good hockey then it’s hard to pass. That’s the situation with Daniel. He’s a similar to a Brendan Gallagher in his draft year. You simply can’t go by a player with that much ability . . . He’s very passionate, he’s driven. He’s an undersized but he’s thick, and strong, and he’s got that tenacity and grit that it takes for an undersized player to succeed.” – Trevor Timmins (Habs Director of Amateur Scouting)

“This combination of skill and speed doesn’t go unnoticed in the QMJHL. He progressed a lot this season and has the potential to be a dominant player in this league next season.” – HP Scout Jean Francois Dore

“Audette is a speedy scorer with plenty of offensive upside. Still, his explosive nature and puck handling ability make Audette a very intriguing prospect in 2014. The smallish pivot, however, lacks the size, strength and physical maturity desired in a center.” – Future Considerations

“This year I’ve really got better with the puck management — taking my time with the puck and looking for the best play instead of just throwing it off somewhere. I think my dad was more of a scorer and I’m more of a passer, when he had the puck he would try to take it to the net. I’m more the type of player who wants to make the other guys score.” – Daniel Audette (Quote via Yahoo! Sports)

 

Hayden Hawkey
177th overall (6th round)
G | 6’02” 174 | Omaha Lancers (USHL)
Regular Season: 33GP 22-6-3, .926 SV%, 1.99 GAA 

Photo: JuniorHockey.com

Photo: JuniorHockey.com

The 2013-2014 USHL Goaltender of the Year is a second-time eligible. Hawkey sports a fantastic name and is clearly a fantastic goaltender. After spending last season with the Colorado Thunderbirds U18 of the MWEHL, Hawkey burst on to the USHL scene.

First and foremost, Hawkey is a tremendous athlete. He’s extremely athletic and owns fantastic lateral movement. He pushes off the posts quickly. He’s calm and poised in the net. Omaha was a solid defensive team, but Hawkey certainly had to stand on his head from time to time. He had USHL’s best GAA, SV% and was on the First All-Star Team.

Hawkey owns a quick glove hand, but needs to improve his blocker side. However, Hawkey’s best ability is his play down low. He’s lightning quick, shuts the five hole in a hurry, and owns top-notch reactions. Additionally, Hawkey has fairly good rebound control, but could stand to improve it.

Hawkey is committed to Providence University for the 2015-2016 season. He might not get much action though, as Jon Gillies has to yet to sign a contract with the Calgary Flames. Gillies is one of the NCAA’s top goaltenders and would essentially be a lock to start for Providence if he return for his senior year. Next season, Hawkey appears as though he will return to Omaha and remain the team’s starting goaltender.

Quote:

“[Hawkey’s] another five-year player . . . Committed to Providence. He’s like money in the bank.” – Trevor Timmins (Habs Director of Amateur Scouting)

“The stellar numbers for Hayden Hawkey speak for themselves as he produced one of the most impressive performances over a single season in League history. A number of goaltenders had outstanding years for their clubs, and in a league loaded with offensive talent, Hayden raised the bar for his position to a whole new level. Congrats to him and the Omaha Lancers on this honor.” – Skip Prince (USHL President and Commissioner)

 

Jake Evans
207th overall (7th round)
RW/C 6’00 180 | St. Michael’s Buzzers (OJHL)
Regular Season: 49GP 16G 47A 63P Playoffs: 5GP 0G 5A 5P

Photo: Tim Bates, OJHL Images

Photo: Tim Bates, OJHL Images

Evans enjoyed a tremendous year with the St. Michael’s Buzzers of the OJHL. Evans finished second in team scoring was named the OJHL First Team All-Prospects.

Evans is certainly a skilled player. He’s a tremendous skater, especially technique-wise. He owns a powerful stride and fantastic top-end speed. He moves well laterally and owns solid balance despite his average frame. He loves to lug the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone.

More of a passer than a shooter. He has the ability to complete difficult passes with ease and makes great passes under pressure. He’s a strong passer off the cycle, too. Don’t be mislead by his lack of goals; he’s a quality finisher. He possesses an accurate shot and owns great hands around the goal. Despite owning a quality shot, he doesn’t use it often enough. He protects the puck quite well and certainly is a puck possession player.

Evans owns a fairly solid defensive game. He’s smart and backchecks quite well; however, he’s prone to leaving the zone early and can get lazy. His compete level comes and goes. Sometimes he will show you a power-type of game and then the next he will look like a perimeter player. He’s prone to taking soft shifts and doesn’t seem consistently engaged.

Evans is a home run swing. He’s got lots of upside, but he lacks the consistency to be anything  more than a project. He’s committed to the University of Notre Dame for next season.

Quotes:

“Evans is at Notre Dame right now, taking school and training there. We would have four years on him. He’s a centreman from [the St. Michael’s Buzzers] of [the OJHL]. A tremendous under-age last year. We really liked what we saw in him. He’s a skilled centre, with great playmaking ability.” – Trevor Timmins (Habs Director of Amateur Scouting)

“Evans’ style of play fits in nicely at Notre Dame where the Fighting Irish coaching staff will help him develop his game with an eye on the next level. Jackson, a two-time national champion bench boss at Lake Superior, has pro and major junior experience as well, including with the New York Islanders.” – Jeff Cox (SBN College Hockey)

“A smart, two way pivot who shows impressive puck skills . . . Has a winning perigee, as he won an OHL cup with the Rebels, but also was a key factor in the St. Michaels Buzzers run to a Buckland Cup Championship last year. A cerebral pivot with good game reading abilities, Evans has sharp offensive instincts. A playmaker that makes smart assessments in possession, he breaks down plays quickly and finds outlets with ease. Poised in possession, can pull the puck back and draw in defenders, allowing for passing lanes to open up, thus giving him more options. Also plays on the point on the powerplay, not due to his high end shot, but more so due to his distributing abilities. Struggled with consistency this year . . . He doesn’t always takes direct routes to the net, opts for the path of least resistance, be it out of a sense of self-preservation or a lack of confidence in his strength. A big key for him moving forward will to add more strength and mass to an under developed frame. A player who you can take your time with, his NCAA commitment should allow teams to take a more long term view on him then others on this list, which is a positive. Projects as a depth centre at the next level, one who can play a smart, effective two way game while adding secondary scoring.” – Sean Lafortune (The Scout)

 

Share Button
Mitch Brown (207 Posts)

Habs fan and prospect enthusiast. Still waiting to see the Habs raise the Cup for the first time.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

16 − 1 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Prospects of the Canadiens’ Future

With the recent trade of now former Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, which landed Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a second round pick from the Vegas Golden Knights, it is safe to assume that the Habs have committed to a full-fledged rebuild. This means it is only a matter of time until the Canadiens core of veterans are […]

Share Button

JOIN THE CONVERSATION