Habsaddicts.com reached out Nikita Scherbak after one of his summer workouts. “I’m now practicing in Calgary”, Scherbak told in Russian after the session. “I’m training with the Crash Conditioning program with their coaches. It’s the first time I’m working with them and all has been great thus far”. The 2014 Habs’ first round pick is definitely not sparing himself: “I’m working on everything. And I’m having sessions both on and off the ice,” he said.
The Moscow, Russia native had quite a busy off-season as he decided to get on shape as much as possible in sight of the next season. “This summer I didn’t have true vacations. I practiced the whole time. I simply spent a couple of weeks at home in Russia after the season, that’s all.”
Moving from Russia to Canada and getting drafted by the Habs, of course, has been quite a feature for the then-19-years-old forward. “It is a new step and a new challenge not only for me, but for my parents too.” Also in the past, Scherbak has been very vocal in how his father was important to him. And he confirmed it once again: “Of course my father is the most important trainer for me. It has always been and it will always be. I got to my successes thanks to the hours of practice I had with him.”
Just as one can imagine, Scherbak is very excited to be part of the Habs organization. Also, he is glad to have been picked up by a team with rich traditions in Russian players as the Canadiens are. “It’s much better when you have the chance to play with such great players, even more so if they are Russians. And what’s even better is that probably in Canada I’ll have more trust from the coaches.” Scherbak also added that he did not talk with Andrei Markov or Alexei Emelin yet.
The young man arrived in Canada pretty much without any English knowledge, but now is well adapted to living abroad. “I’m happy about everything here in Canada. Moscow is where I was born and it will always be my favorite city, but I love it in Canada and I’m very satisfied,” Scherbak added. “At the start it has been very hard. The very start. I didn’t know the language and all. Now I understand much more and I can also speak much better.” And he also wholeheartedly agreed to consider hockey as an universal language.
Even with all his potential, though, it’s not a given fact that Nikita will start the season with the Habs. “Let’s see what happens. I’ll work very hard because I really want and hope to start the season in Montreal, but we’ll see,” he said.
Crossing the ocean, Scherbak also had to do with the more physicality on ice that European players eventually encounter once they move. “I think that anyway fights are a part of the game. Hockey is a men’s game.” Scherbak said that he had fights before moving to North America, and also that he had one last year. “But I did not win. I fought against an enforcer,” he said.
Back home in Russia, many were surprised to see a player who scored only 14 points the year before explode with a 78-point regular season the next season. But Scherbak has no doubts regarding leagues’ classification: “I really think that the CHL is the best junior league in the world.”
Just as most players, Scherbak has a good time remembering his first goal for his new team, particularly so if the new team was some 4,700 miles away from home. “I was skating on the corner, then I gave the puck to my team mate on the face-off dot. He gave it back to me and I was all alone in front of the crease. I shot the puck and it went in on the far post side. Of course, after the game I collected the puck and brought it home.”
Scherbak has been picked up pretty high with the 26th overall pick, but probably many teams decided not to draft him due to the infamous Russian Factor, who has become much more prominent since the creation of the KHL in 2008. But Scherbak wanted to make clear that he does not intend to move back home any time soon: “The KHL is a good league, but I kind of have enough of Russia for now.” That is, Habs fans can be sure that Nikita will not bolt back to the Mother Land, and he is very determined to make the team as soon as possible. He also said to appreciate a lot his nickname in Saskatoon, Scherbinator. “I love it,” he said with a big smile. So maybe Habs’ fans found a way to call him properly.
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Special thanks to Alessandro Seren Rosso for doing this interview on behalf of HabsAddict.