After signing a contract with Omsk Avangard in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for the upcoming season, Nikita Scherbak sat down with Sport24.ru to talk about his time with the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs's 1st round draft pick in 2014 had more than a few choice words directed at his former team.
Being a first-round draft pick in any sport comes with a lot of pressure, especially when you're drafted by the Montreal Canadiens. Nikita Scherbak arrived in Montreal with high expectations and, ultimately, failed to meet them. He played a total of 37 NHL games with the Habs and the L.A. Kings.
Mired by inconsistencies and questioned about his dedication, Scherbak left the NHL this season and went back to his home country to play in the KHL. The 23-year-old heavily criticized the team that drafted him.
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After a successful junior hockey career with the Saskatoon Blades and Everett Silvertips, amassing 160 points in 130 games, Scherbak was drafted to the Habs with high hopes.
His talent, unfortunately, didn't translate to the NHL game and he was constantly sent down to the minor leagues, playing 168 games with the Habs' minor league affiliates in Saint-John's and Laval. Scherbak was placed on waivers and was claimed by the L.A. Kings, playing only 8 games with the team before being sent down.
In the interview with Sport24.ru, Scherbak highlighted that he holds no ill feelings towards his former team despite feeling like he wasn't given a real chance to prove himself.
"They didn't let me play in Montreal. I trained, I was patient but in the end, my nerves gave out and I asked to be traded," he claims. "I understand it's just business. I wanted to stay in Montreal as long as I could."
When asked about what the Montreal Canadiens lifestyle was like, Scherbak paints the picture of a surly management team that micromanaged his living situation. He describes it as being in kindergarten, in fact.
"The higher-ups at the club forced me to train through the summer and live with a strange family. I was 19 and was ordered to be home by 10. 11 on the weekends. This sounds like kindergarten to me," says Scherbak.
Apparently, the curfew and stringent rules weren't mandatory for other young players on the team. Scherbak had to travel almost an hour to get to team practices. He even suggests an anti-Russian bias among the Habs brass.
"I think actions speak for themselves. There are a lot of Francophones, a lot of Quebecois boys. They don't even attempt to speak English, so they just speak French. But we were told we weren't allowed to speak Russian. Why? What's so bad about that?"
Whether or not this is an indictment on the Habs culture or just an isolated incident, it's clear the Scherbak felt these things or else he wouldn't have mentioned them.
The NHL Regular Season is set to begin on Wednesday, October 2nd.
The Montreal Canadiens host the Detroit Red Wings for their home opener on Thursday, October 10th.