Canadiens prospect Nikita Scherbak takes part in a development camp at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Monday, July 7, 2014.
Photograph by: Dario Ayala, The Gazette
MONTREAL — Nikita Scherbak took another step toward a National Hockey League career Monday when he agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canadiens.
The Canadiens selected Scherbak in the first round (26th overall) of this year’s NHL draft and the deal represents a commitment by both sides. The Canadiens had two years to get Scherbak’s signature on a contract, but getting him locked up at this time is a sign they will give the 18-year-old forward a long look at training camp in September.
The smart money says Scherbak will be going back to the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. But Scherbak is hoping to follow in the footsteps of another youngster with a Russian background, Alex Galchenyuk.
Galchenyuk made the jump from junior to the Canadiens in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season after he was selected third overall at the 2012 draft. Scherbak wasn’t as highly rated as Galchenyuk going into the draft and was available to the Canadiens late in the first round because of the so-called Russian factor — a fear that a Russian player will bolt to the Kontinental Hockey League.
But Scherbak, whose confidence level resembles that of Galchenyuk, made it clear from the time he was drafted that his dream is to play in the NHL alongside “the best players in the world.” He said he went to Saskatoon to further that dream and he’s going to training camp with the idea of staying in Montreal.
Scherbak, a 6-foot-2, 189-pound right-winger, was the leading scorer on one of the worst teams in the WHL last season with 28 goals and 50 assists in 65 games. He was the top-scoring rookie in the league with a 19-point edge over the runner-up.
He also made impressive strides off the ice. Scherbak arrived in Saskatoon with no knowledge of English, and eight months later he’s reasonably fluent in the language.
“I just talked to people,” said Scherbak, who is planning to use the same strategy to learn French.
While terms of the contract were not disclosed, Scherbak will command the entry-level maximum of $925,000 if he plays in the NHL and $70,000 if he plays in the American Hockey League with the Hamilton Bulldogs. There is also a bonus involved. The start of the contract will be delayed if he goes back to junior next season.
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