Development Camp - Day 3
The third day of development camp focused on base skills needed to be successful at the NHL level: shooting, fluid skating and strength. The early morning session was reserved for forwards and a couple of goalies.
Starting with skating drills, the attention to detail was in controlling the puck while keeping your head up, avoiding looking down to see where the puck was. This was a skill where Nikita Scherbak was able to shine, clearly fluid and confident on his skates. It makes you long for him to put it all together in a game situation.
A familiar goalie was onto the ice for the session as well - no not Carey Price feeling obliged after signing his huge contract - it was the good ole Shooter Tutor. Ryan Poehling, the Canadiens first-round pick in this year’s draft, struggled at first attempt with the accuracy shooting, going 1 for 4. The strength and velocity in his shot however, were apparent.
Laval Rocket assistant coach Nick Carriere was supervising close by, only to take the rookie aside to offer further instruction. It immediately yielded a positive result, as Poehling adjusted his shot and went 3 for 4 on his second attempt. This is what the process is about, receiving the proper tips, and guidance to make these young men more capable players.
The defensemen had a different agenda when they were done pulling and pushing sleds during their morning gym routine. The focus was on board battles as they were paired up and fought for positioning.
Noah Juulsen was the standout. While he remains quite slender, his strength along the boards was apparent. His board battles drills with Cale Fleury were a showcase of his stability on his skates - Fleury was unable to knock him off the puck - and his agility, when Fleury tried to pin him to the boards, he was able to easily avoid the check. Of course that all changes when you get to the NHL level, but the young defencemen, whom the Canadiens hold in high regard, was showing promising signs of a strong player who could join the AHL ranks next season.
Scherbak Becoming a Leader
Nikita Scherbak has suddenly found himself the veteran.
The veteran of development camp, anyway.
The Habs first round pick in 2014 is still finding his way as a leader on the ice at camp, but off it he believes he’s got it down pat.
“Now I have to be a leader for young guys, help them. They (rookies) ask me questions… where to go, where’s the gym. It’s nice […] It’s leadership and everybody respects that."
It is true, Scherbak is one of the oldest players on the ice at the ripe age of 21. He may know his way around the building in Brossard, but he’ll have to do more than ace the drills in practice to show his true leadership qualities.
To become the well rounded leader, and to emulate one of his influencers Andrei Markov, he’ll have to up his game on the ice. He has been engaged and breezing through the skills portion of development camp, but admits when it comes to the scrimmages he hasn’t been at his best.
“I didn't feel great so far but I’m trying to get on the ice… I didn’t get too much ice in the off-season, I’m trying to get better. I’m working on it.’”. During Monday’s scrimmage he couldn’t quite get the puck past Michael McNiven, hitting the post and went one for two in penalty shots.
Scherbak is leaning on his experience hanging around with the Russian Montreal Canadiens contingent during his time with the team last season. The respect he has for free-agent Andrei Markov is apparent.
“He’s an example for anybody, he's been in this organization for many years, everybody listens to what he says. He would give me a hard time. Saying things like “Why are you not in the gym?” when I was eating food or something like that. […] I was scared of him the first time… he was so serious, but then I turn around and see him laughing with the other old guys. I had to do whatever he was going to say to me! I had no choice!”.
Now it seems, Scherbak has a choice of his own to make. To lead both on and off the ice.