The Habs added some size and skill up front in the first round of the draft on Friday night. With the 26th overall pick, they selected Russian winger Nikita Scherbak of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. The 6’1 forward collected 78 points in 65 games for the Blades this season; no other Saskatoon player had more than 43.
Scherbak came out of nowhere this year. He was the third last player taken in the CHL Import Draft (109th overall) and wasn’t listed on Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings. He shot onto the scene in a hurry though and was for the most part a consensus top-20 pick in the rankings, falling likely due to the Russian factor.
HP Blackbook: "Nikita is offensively savvy and possesses a good hockey IQ. Scherbak skates very upright and uses his body exceptionally well to protect the puck. His lower-body strength and posture make him look quite large despite the fact that he is actually smaller than listed. Nikita is an excellent skater who is very mobile with good agility."
McKeen’s: "Scherbak was ‘Mr. Everything’offensively for a young rebuilding Blades team….Scherbak showed improvements in all facets of his game and was able to produce impressive numbers with no supporting cast .. blessed with the natural hand skills and offensive prowess to play within a top six capacity."
Future Considerations: "Very strong on his feet, although he was rarely the aggressor in the dirty areas. Scherbak spends a little bit too much time drifting in the neutral zone when he could assert himself at a better position on the breakout and in the defensive zone. His eyes seem to light up around the puck, but we would have liked to seen a little bit more competitiveness away from the play to help his team succeed."
Central Scouting: "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 really uses his linemates well, he’s an unselfish player and has really adapted well to the North American game."
The Hockey News: "While not a great skater, he gets around the ice well enough. Scherbak is more of a playmaker than a scorer, an attribute that will emerge more prominently once he starts playing with more talented players."
DraftBuzz: "A very good stickhandler who combines a little bit of flair with evasive puck protection. Can pass with quickness and vision. Underrated defensive forward due to ability to get into lanes and break plays up. Excels at pouncing on live opportunities he has anticipated with sense and speed. Has a tendency to fall down a lot."
TSN: "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."
CSB: 15 (North American Skaters)
The Hockey News: 18
Future Considerations: 34