After spending the better part of the offseason training in Calgary, the 19-year-old recently returned to La Belle Province to continue working out and skating at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard under the watchful eye of Canadiens strength and conditioning coach, Pierre Allard. It's by no means a temporary move, as Scherbak will remain in Montreal for the duration of the month of August, fine-tuning his fitness level and already remarkable skill set heading into rookie camp and then on into training camp come mid-September.
“I like all the options here [in Brossard]. It’s perfect. We’ve got two ice rinks and a good gym. There’s a hot tub and a cold tub. You basically have whatever you could possibly want. It’s ideal,” offered Scherbak, referencing the bevy of on and off-ice training options at his disposal every single day on the South Shore. “It’s also good to have someone like Pierre telling me if I’m not doing an exercise or a movement right. I like the feedback. He corrects me right away. You’re learning what [the Canadiens] want you to do and you’re trying to get better as you go. This is the best thing for me right now. I like it.”
Allard isn’t the only veteran presence to have imparted wisdom on the dynamic forward over the last couple of months. While still in Alberta earlier this summer, Scherbak was a mainstay at Crash Conditioning’s Calgary facility, training alongside the likes of Mike Green, Jordan Eberle and Zach Boychuk, before finding a new ally – and role model – in rugged defenseman Alexei Emelin back in Montreal.
“It’s awesome training with Emmy here. He’s a good guy. He’s helped me a lot. It’s good to work with a player who has played a long time in the NHL, and he’s right beside you in the gym. I see how hard he’s working out for September. You want to do the same things as him. You might think it’s easy, but it’s not,” mentioned Scherbak, who is also working out with fellow young gun Sven Andrighetto these days. “We see Emmy sweating from doing heavy weights. You see how much effort he’s putting in and how hard he’s working to get ready for the season. It’s a good environment for training.”
So, just how far has Scherbak come in the overall fitness and strength departments since the Canadiens selected him 26th overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia?
“It’s been fun seeing Nikita’s progress. He’s coming off his second [development] camp with us. You could tell that he learned from last year's experience. He knew exactly what he had to do to get stronger and add some weight. He’s making an important commitment by being here. That’s a big step,” praised Allard, who saw Scherbak tip the scales at 204 pounds back in early July. “But, his challenge now is to strengthen his core muscles. He’s really young, so I’m working more on the foundation. Once that’s where it should be, we can add more weight and build on the heavier lifting. The focus, though, is on making sure he learns our team philosophy in terms of training, and I think in the long term we’re going to see a big improvement. He’s got a lot of room to grow, so that’s pretty fun to work with. It will be a good challenge for him.”
In an effort to meet that challenge head on, Scherbak elected to remain on this side of the pond all summer long, foregoing any plans to return to his native Russia heading into the 2015-16 campaign.
“It was the right thing to stay in Canada. I’ve always been excited to be here. In Calgary, I stayed at my agent’s house, and I practiced every day. It’s the same thing in Montreal. Overall, it was a lot of fun. It’s too bad I didn’t get a chance to see my parents, but they’re happy I’m here and they know I’m safe. They know it’s my job. They understand what I’m doing,” explained Scherbak, who put up 27 goals and 82 points in 65 regular season games with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips last year. “Sacrifice is a part of it all. Many of my friends went away and went on vacations. I knew that I couldn’t go. I had to go the gym and train instead. I took a couple of weeks off, and got right to work. I want to be able to show people what I can do. I’ll be trying to make this roster.”
It’s that type of attitude – coupled with outstanding natural talent, of course – that just might help Scherbak make his NHL dreams come true as soon as early October. In short, there’s nothing the Moscow native would like more than to make his current living situation a permanent one.
“I try and push myself all the time. You know what motivates me? Right now, it’s coming to the rink and seeing the Canadiens logos everywhere. I know I’m not on the team, but it really gets me going. I’m working out with NHL players, and I feel like I’m getting closer and closer every day. Two years ago, I never would have thought I’d be here right now. But, I’m sitting here and I’m working out here. It really is like a second home,” confided Scherbak, who simply can’t say enough good things about Montreal. “I’m happy here. It’s a beautiful island. The Champlain Bridge. The Victoria Bridge. Downtown Montreal is great with all of the big and tall buildings. I like to walk around and see people walking around, especially being from Moscow, which is a really busy city, too. I feel good.”
And, while Scherbak might not be quite ready for game action just yet, he’s eagerly anticipating whatever the next six weeks have in store, especially the start of the NHL preseason.
“I still have about a month to get everything together [before rookie camp]. Right now, I’m excited every time I skate. It was a long season [last year in Everett], but it was a good one. We played hard in the playoffs, but I think we could have gone further than we did. I’m excited to practice, and I’ll definitely be more patient when it comes to games. I remember playing in the preseason last year. It was awesome. I can’t wait to experience that again,” concluded Scherbak, who has fond memories of playing in front of the Bell Centre faithful last September. “It’s amazing just how much people love hockey here. It’s incredible. You know you’ll be playing in front of over 21,000 people every night. People don’t just come to games, they love it and they understand it. They love when you make good plays. They come to watch you do something special. It’s an exciting place to play.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Liking what he sees
One step at a time
Hab at Heart: Jennifer Finnigan
Road to the NHL: Greg Pateryn
Road to the NHL: Alex Galchenyuk