When Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins stepped up to the podium to make their first selection of the 2014 NHL draft, four of my top six favourite picks were still available for the pickings.
My number one for the Habs was Adrian Kempe out of Modo, he was eventually selected at 29th by the Kings.
The Habs brass selected Nikita Scherbak of the Saskatoon Blades who was not on my list. I am quite pleased indeed with this selection. The player, it should be noted, did not make my list as I did not believe he would be available at 26th over-all.
Scherbak acquitted himself very well in many interviews last night. Especially for a person who didn't speak a word of English less than a year ago. He came off as charming, funny, and grounded. After interviewing close to one hundred draft hopefuls this week, it's a fair bet that the Canadiens brass believes that Scherbak has the "character and compete" that they are looking for from all their players.
The "character" part was certainly on display last night.
Nikita Scherbak - RW - 6'0/172 - Saskatoon (WHL)
The 27th ranked draft eligible player according to International Scouting services.
The 16th ranked draft eligible player on McKeen's list.
The 15th ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting
Ranked #35 overall by TSN's Craig Button
Ranked 21st by TSN's Bob McKenzie
The 14th ranked draft eligible player on HockeyProspect.com
The 18th ranked draft eligible player according to The Hockey News
The 23rd ranked draft eligible player according to Sportsnet Magazine.
• In 2013-14, his first season in North America, Scherbak led all Western Hockey League rookies in scoring by 19 points with 28-50—78 in 65 games.
• Scherbak was named the Blades’ Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Plus/Minus Leader and 3-Star Award Winner. He earned the team’s Top Scorer Award after leading the Blades in goals, assists and points, becoming the first rookie to lead Saskatoon in scoring since Garett Bembridge in 1996-97.
• A vibrant personality who is known to talk a lot on road trips, Scherbak has been taking English classes and learning at an accelerated rate. Saskatoon head coach Dave Struch jokes: “On the five or six-hour bus trips he sits four seats behind us (coaches) and that’s all you can hear, him talking the whole way.”
• He lists Pavel Datsyuk as his childhood hockey idol and wears No. 27 in tribute to Russian superstar Alex Kovalev.
"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." - Craig Button (TSN)
“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)
"Teams always ask Russians about commitment to the NHL over the KHL. Scherbak might land in round 2 after missing the combine due to visa issues." - Gare Joyce (Sportsnet)