Nikita Scherbak: A Proven Offensive Force

Photo: Nikita Scherbak's Instagram (@nikscherbak)

Photo: Nikita Scherbak’s Instagram (@nikscherbak)

At the 2014 National Hockey League Entry Draft, the Montreal Canadiens used their first overall selection which sat at 26th overall to draft Nikita Scherbak out of the Western Hockey League. A common criticism of the current make-up of the Habs line-up is despite some dangerous goal scorers, the team as a whole plays a very low scoring game. Unfortunately as a result of this, the team has had to rely on Carey Price to put up historic numbers night in and out to increase the numbers in the win column.

Fortunately for fans of the bleu, blanc, et rouge, the Habs do have some goal scoring ability currently developing through their prospect system. One particular name that comes to mind is the 2014 first round pick – Nikita Scherbak. The 19-year old was born on December 30th, 1995 in Moscow, Russia. According to his bio on the team’s website, the right winger stands at 6’2″ and 204lbs.

Scherbak has been a proven offensive force throughout his young hockey career. Growing up in Russia, Scherbak played on a number of high level teams for is age at the given time. In 2010-11, when Scherbak was only 14 (turning 15), he played on both North Star and Spartak. In his hometown of Moscow, both of these clubs at the time consisted of 1995-born hockey players. With Spartak, Scherbak had 12 points in 13 games (5 goals + 7 assists), and with North Star he had an impressive 13 points in 10 games (10 goals + 3 assists) while proving to be a dominant goal scorer on the team.

The following season in 2011-12, Scherbak scored 22 times while being the helper 9 times in group play and had 3 goals and 9 assists in league action. Despite his efforts, North Star finished in the bottom half of the standings in the junior league based in Moscow.

Because Scherbak turned 16-years old, he was eligible to play in the Junior Hockey League (Abbreviated: MHL) in Russia for the 2012-13 season. The Junior Hockey League, which is sometimes translated as Minor Hockey League in English – is a major junior hockey league in Russia. An example of major hockey leagues in North America include the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the Western Hockey League. Nikita played one season in the MHL with the Kapitan Stupino. With 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points in 50 games, Scherbak finished 11th on his team in points. As a rookie, that was exceeding expectations. While Scherbak is a 1995-born forward, the 10 teammates above him all were born between 1991 to 1993. It should also be mentioned that 8 of the 10 teammates above Nikita in points played anywhere between 8-13 games more than him.

Statistics via Elite Prospects

Statistics via Elite Prospects

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, 0.28 points per game over the course of 50 games is not necessarily a dominant offensive force. But it has to be put into perspective that at such a high level of hockey in Russia the young rookie did prove to be a solid pick up for the major junior team. After a year in the MHL, Scherbak was ready to cross the ocean and showcase his talents in North America.

Every year, the Canadian Hockey League which oversees the OHL, QMJHL and WHL participates in an import draft. Each of the three leagues have their own specific drafts every year for incoming talent playing within their specific North American boundaries, but all 60 teams across the three leagues gather for an import draft annually. It’s a two round, 120-pick draft where each team has the opportunity to draft up to two overseas players, but teams may pass. The 2013 CHL import draft saw lots of now-known names be drafted whether or not they reported to North America, including Andre Burakovsky (5th overall, Erie Otters – OHL), Jacob de la Rose (11th overall, Windsor Spitfires – OHL), Timo Meier (12th overall, Halifax Mooseheads – QMJHL), and Julius Honka (34th overall, Swift Current Broncos – WHL). Scherbak was not drafted until the Saskatoon Blades took him with their 2nd round pick at 109th overall, making him the third last player selected. Despite it being a 120-pick draft, 9 of the last 12 teams passed on their selection. In fact, only 22 teams out of the possible 60 selected a player in the second round. But the round did turn out to see some fine talent, including Artturi Lehkonen (85th overall, Kootenay Ice – WHL) Adrian Kempe (107th overall, Barrie Colts – OHL), and of course Scherbak.

Unlike many players in the 2013 CHL import draft, Scherbak chose to report to the Western Hockey League and joined the Saskatoon Blades who had selected him. Despite his individual success as a young teenager, there was obviously not a lot of expectation for the 109th overall pick. The Blades would struggle in the 2013-14 season, finishing 16-51-5 and clearly missing the playoffs. What did create a lot of talk though, was that there newly acquired Russian forward dominated the team in points. When I say dominated, his 78 points in 65 games was 35 more points than the next best player on the team, and 52 more points than the next best rookie on the team.

Photo: WHL.ca

Photo: WHL.ca (Click to Enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scherbak’s 78 points placed him 23rd in the WHL in points during the 2013-14 regular season, and 1st among all WHL rookies. He had more points than fellow rookies throughout the CHL including Travis Konecny (70 – OHL), Mitchell Marner (59 – OHL), Dylan Strome (39 – OHL). The only rookie he fell short of in points was Nikolaj Ehlers (104 – QMJHL).

For the 2014-15 season, Scherbak was sent back to the WHL after being drafted by the Canadiens but was dealt to the Everett Silvertips as part of a Saskatoon rebuild attempt due to their 16 wins in the previous season. In Everett, Scherbak topped 80 points with 82 in 65 games played (1.26 points per game). His 82 points was good enough to once again to place him atop the leaderboards in points among his teammates. Not bad for such a late import draft pick, eh?

Coming into training camp, it’s currently unclear where Scherbak will be playing for the 2015-16 season. Nikita will be giving everything he has to make the team and he has clearly been training hard all summer long. Whether management rushes him into the line-up next season or takes their time to develop him, Habs fans have a reason to be excited. Scherbak has offensively produced at every level he has played at on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and there is no sign that should slow down heading into the big leagues.

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