MONTREAL – Sharing the ups and downs of being first-year pros brought Michael McCarron and Nikita Scherbak closer together last season.
The former first-rounders made the jump from the CHL to the AHL ranks at the same time last October, beginning their respective campaigns sporting St. John’s IceCaps uniforms under the tutelage of head coach Sylvain Lefebvre.
|Nikita Scherbak and Michael McCarron on the final day of development camp in Brossard on July 7. |
It was there that McCarron, 21, and Scherbak, 20, finally got the chance to get to know one another. They’d had the opportunity to interact at the Canadiens’ development camps several times before, but it certainly wasn’t the same as playing on the same team and traveling from city to city on bus rides that would go on for hours.
It’s safe to say that in addition to being teammates in Newfoundland, the two steadily became good friends.
“We kind of stuck together through the hardships of being a rookie. We doubled up together on the bus and we lived right next door to each other in St. John’s in the same complex, too. I think we’re similar and we like to be around each other,” said McCarron, who recently took part in his fourth development camp with the Canadiens since being drafted 25th overall back in 2013, while Scherbak made his third appearance at the annual gathering after going 26th overall one year later. “We’re good buddies. We give it to each other sometimes about all kinds of stuff, but we can handle it. We got pretty close last year.”
McCarron and Scherbak’s Twitter and Instagram accounts are good indicators of that. The pair shared some fun moments with their followers during the 2015-16 campaign – and more recently at development camp last week in Brossard – showcasing just how tight they really are.
“Mike’s a great guy. We just kind of knew each other when we came to camp over the last couple of years. But, we became friends in St. John’s. He’s a great kid. I’m enjoying all of the time I spend with him. That Instagram and Twitter stuff is pretty funny. We’re always trying to find jokes about something,” said Scherbak, who, like McCarron, enjoys showcasing his lighter side online with his supporters. “He’s a funny guy, and I just try to be the same way as him. People don’t always get our jokes, but we think they’re funny.”
Keeping things light away from the rink was a good way for the pair to handle the inevitable challenges that come with being a newcomer in a man’s league with far more seasoned players all around them. And, when either one of them needed to work something out in their game or get something off their chest, they didn’t have to look far for someone to lend a sympathetic ear.
“We had to prove ourselves as first-rounders [in St. John’s]. We were looked upon as key players, and we had to prove that we could be those types of guys. It’s just the hardships of being a rookie. We battled through it together,” said McCarron, who clearly enjoyed the supportive nature of their relationship. “Nikita and I talked if we had anything on our minds. He was an outlet to go and talk to when I needed it, and I did the same for him.”
|The pair have always enjoyed having a little fun together on their respective social media accounts. |
When McCarron got called up to the big leagues late last year and made his NHL debut against the Dallas Stars on December 19, Scherbak couldn’t have been more thrilled. Seeing his buddy realize his childhood dream was a very special moment for the Russian forward, and he was pleased to see him suit up for 20 NHL games when all was said and done.
“We’re heading in the same direction, I think. When he got called up, I was very happy for him. That was nice to see the guy who you’re friends with, and hang out with, make it to the NHL,” said Scherbak, who will undoubtedly be looking to follow in McCarron’s footsteps in 2016-17 and get his first shot to suit up for the Canadiens alongside fellow countrymen Alexander Radulov, Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov.
For now, though, McCarron and Scherbak will go their separate ways before coming back together for rookie camp in mid-September. While McCarron will continue training in London, ON with his older brother, John, and skating with the likes of Nathan Beaulieu, Drew Doughty, Corey Perry and Dave Bolland at Budweiser Gardens later on this month, Scherbak will remain in Montreal to work with strength and conditioning coach, Pierre Allard, at the Bell Sports Complex.
It goes without saying that both of them are looking forward to putting lessons learned to good use and making this year even more productive than the last.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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