Nikita Scherbak: Prospect Profile for Montreal Canadiens' 1st-Round Pick

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Nikita Scherbak: Prospect Profile for Montreal Canadiens' 1st-Round Pick
Derek Leung/Getty Images
Nikita Scherbak played well in the WHL last season.

Player: Nikita Scherbak

Drafted By: Montreal Canadiens (26th overall)

Position: RW

Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 15 North American skater

Height/Weight: 6'1'', 175 lbs

DOB: December 30, 1995 (18 years old)

Most Recent Affiliation: WHL, Saskatoon Blades

 

Background

Nikita Scherbak wasn't familiar to a lot of scouts at the start of last season, but his strong performance on a very bad team made people notice him by year's end. The Moscow native is a very good playmaker, which is even more remarkable when you consider the lack of talent around him last season. 

Scherbak scored 28 goals and 78 points in 65 games for the Saskatoon Blades. No one else on the team finished with more than 46 points. The Blades went just 16-51-5 and did not qualify for the playoffs last season.

Although Scherbak was born and raised in Russia, he was ranked by Central Scouting as a North American skater because he played in the WHL last season.

 

Full Scouting Report

Scherbak is a good offensive player, but he projects as a passer more than as a sniper. Scherbak's skating is just slightly above average. It is not a liability, but it is not a great strength either. He is a very smart player who sees plays developing and gets himself into the best position to capitalize on any given opportunity.

Some teams may shy away from Scherbak despite his talent because he is Russian and has the option of playing in the KHL.

Peter Sullivan of Central Scouting told John Vogl of The Buffalo News this about Scherbak before the draft: 

"Great skill and smarts, he’s played all three forward positions this year but his strength is on the right wing being a left hand shot because he loves to drive the net. He’s an unselfish player and has really adapted well to the North American game."

TSN scouting director Craig Button said that Scherbak has, "Excellent scoring instincts and he arrives at the right times to take full advantage. Awareness of how to exploit opportunities is very good and is vigilant and alert in this regard. A versatile player who can play off strengths of others."

Scherbak has adjusted well to the smaller North American rinks. His coach in Saskatoon, Dave Struch, told NHL.com's Mike G. Morreale:

There's no doubt Nikita has been a big surprise for all of us, but I give all the credit in the world to the player for putting the time in and wanting to learn the game over here and being as coachable as he is. He doesn't always do the right thing, but he listens to us and wants to get better.

On the ice, Scherbak still needs to gain weight. At 6'1" and 175 pounds, he's not physically mature enough to handle the physical grind of an 82-game NHL season. Once he puts some muscle on his frame, he should improve in this area.

 

NHL Player Comparison

Scherbak patterns himself on Pavel Datsyuk, but he is not in that league offensively. He may project as more of an Olli Jokinen-type, a second-line player who is a decent goal scorer and a talented passer.

 

NHL Timetable

It will be at least two years before Scherbak reaches the NHL. His creativity and vision will be the tools that will get him there eventually, but his body needs to catch up to his hands and hockey IQ. The earliest we can expect Scherbak to reach the NHL is 2016-17.

 

Top-End Potential

At his top potential, Scherbak is a top-six forward who can score 25 goals and 65 to 70 points. He will also be very productive on the power play. His ability to play well even without much support will help him over the course of his career.

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