BROSSARD – Habs hopefuls got a first taste of life in the big leagues on Sunday morning.
After undergoing a variety of tests on Saturday, the 43 players on-hand at the Canadiens' development camp in Brossard hit the Bell Sports Complex ice for the first time, each taking a significant step towards a season in the pros.
That was notably the case for Michael McCarron, who wrapped up his Junior career last spring by hoisting the Memorial Cup in Quebec City.
"It's going to be my first contact with professional hockey this year. Montreal is a city with a championship attitude, and all of the guys here are coming from winning teams," noted the Canadiens' first pick from the 2013 NHL Draft, adding that he's also ready for a stint with the IceCaps while he vies for a spot with the big club.
Same story for the Canadiens' first-round pick from 2014, Nikita Scherbak, who arrived at development camp with one goal in mind; going pro, whether it be in Montreal or St. John's.
"It's impossible for me to say right now that I'm going to score 30 or 40 goals in the NHL. I'm going to start by training properly first instead, and then we'll see. Helping my future team win every game is my objective," explained the 19-year-old Russian, who added 20 pounds to his frame since last visiting Montreal. "I've been working out with Mike Green and Jordan Eberle. It's exciting to spend time in the gym with those guys. They're NHL players, and you have to work extra hard to keep up with them."
More than just bulking up, Scherbak has also fine-tuned his on-ice abilities to the tune of an 82-point, plus-33 season over 65 games in Everett this past year.
"I'm a lot better today than I was a year ago. I'm more patient and less nervous on the ice, which is something that comes with age. I'm expecting to have a really good camp this year," assured the soon-to-be 20-year-old. "I don't think playing in the AHL at 20 presents an additional challenge. Everyone's already been 20 once, and I think it might even be to my advantage to be surrounded by veteran players, because it allows you to learn more quickly."
Although they hadn't been teammates in Everett for long, Scherbak is also thrilled to be reunited with former Silvertips defenseman Noah Juulsen.
"I was so happy to see him picked by Montreal. I was in Calgary watching the draft with some friends, and when they called his name, I jumped up on the sofa with joy. I couldn't believe it. He's a good guy and he deserves it," continued Scherbak, who nevertheless didn't want to let on too much about the B.C.-native's playing style. "It's just something that you'll have to see for yourself."
Which is exactly what everyone will be able to do over the next couple of days, as Juulsen, Scherbak, McCarron and company will all be in action in Brossard.
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Steven Nechay.
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