The Montreal Canadiens signed Nikita Scherbak, their first round pick from the draft in June, to a three-year entry level deal on Monday. The value of the deal was not disclosed.
Montreal took the 18-year-old Russian sniper 26th overall at the draft. The playmaking left-winger was named rookie of the year in the WHL after posting 25 goals and 50 assists with the Saskatoon Blades. He is expected to return to the Blades next year but will be at the team’s training camp in September.
“He’s a guy with a big personality and confidence,” Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said at the draft. “Montreal is a different market and from what we’ve seen from him so far, we get the impression he’ll be able to handle that.”
Scherbak was ranked 15th in North America by NHL Central Scouting but fell in the draft because teams are afraid to take risks with Russian prospects. The lure of the KHL can take some of the best Russian players away from the league.
But Scherbak has shown he is a player who won’t bolt, which is why Montreal felt comfortable taking him. And Scherbak is excited to come to one of the largest and loudest markets in the league.
“It’s just positive emotions for me and for my family. Montreal has great fans. It’s a great club with great history,” he said. “I’m in Saskatoon and I watch NHL games and my God, Montreal is crazy. It’s unbelievable.”
Scherbak showed off his skills at Montreal’s prospect development camp a couple weeks ago and has quickly become a fan favourite. Andrew Berkshire, writing for Habs Eye on the Prize, said that Scherbak was the most popular player there.
“As he looked at the scrum and exclaimed ‘Oh my got(god, but pronounced got)!’ to laughter, he launched into explaining that he was very nervous and had ‘fireworks in the head’,” Berksire wrote. “He instantly had everyone on his side, and although I’m sure media guys won’t appreciate me putting it this way, he made them all fans.”
The buzz around Scherbek seems to be much more widespread than when the Habs took another Russian, Alex Galchenyuk, in the 2012 draft. Galchenyuk has turned out to be a great pick and Scherbak has the potential to be another star in the very near future.
— nik scherbak (@nikscherbak) July 21, 2014