Nikita Scherbak had an opportunity to make a case for a lineup spot last September, but a difficult training camp and pre-season failed to make the impressions necessary to force his way onto the team. Instead, he was sent back to Laval to start the season — the third year of AHL hockey in his professional career.
He seemed to use the situation as motivation, controlling the offence for the nascent franchise and average 1.5 points over the first six games of the season.
Seeing the performance he had hoped for in September, Marc Bergevin recalled Scherbak in late October after an injury to Ales Hemsky provided the opportunity. Unfortunately for Scherbak, that second chance at a roster spot was cut short by an injury, forcing him out for six weeks as he recovered from knee surgery.
Picking up his early-season performance as soon as he was healthy enough to return to Laval, he got another chance with the team in February. A third recall of the season later that month allowed him to finish the season in Montreal, and also let him score goals like this:
The goal highlighted many of his skills, which we broke down frame-by-frame. It was one of the showcases of skill we saw from the 2014 first-round pick, and a glimpse at what he may be able to do at the NHL level.
To be able to score more goals like that one, he’ll need to shoot the puck more often than he’s shown at the NHL level to this point. That can be helped by playing with top talent, which is a deployment that he received only sporadically in 2017-18. An offensive player like Scherbak needs to play with those who can complement his game to be truly effective.
An injury situation like the one that brought about his first recall last season will face the Canadiens to start the upcoming campaign, and that gives Scherbak another opportunity to showcase his talents. The team will have no choice but to play him with some of the better players in the organization, and it’s a situation that Scherbak will need to take full advantage of to show he deserves to be a regular NHLer.
Grade Scherbak’s 2017-18 season performance
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