The Canadiens can add another name to the list of first-round draft picks who didn’t work out with the team.
The Canadiens placed forward Nikita Scherbak on NHL waivers at noon Saturday and he was claimed by the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. Scherbak had been practising with the Canadiens while on the injured-reserve list with a lower-body injury. He did not play a game with the Canadiens this season and had one goal in five games with the AHL’s Laval Rocket before getting injured.
“He just didn’t have a great camp,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said about Scherbak when he met with the media a couple of hours before Sunday night’s game against the San Jose Sharks at the Bell Centre. “We sent him to Laval, he was having a hard time finding his game. We had to make a decision based on our roster. Unfortunately, that’s what happens. Would we have liked to keep him and have an opportunity to send him to Laval? I’m sure we would have. But it happens. There’s guys claimed on waivers … there was more of them claimed this week. So it is part of the game, unfortunately. It’s part of the CBA and in the rules, so you live with it and you move on.”
The Kings are the worst team in the NHL this season with a 9-16-1 record and rank last in offence, scoring an average of 2.21 goals per game. The Kings announced Sunday that Ilya Kovalchuk will be out for four weeks with an ankle injury. Los Angeles signed the 35-year-old Russian forward to a three-year, US$18.5-million contract on June 23 after he spent the last five years in the KHL, but he has only 5-9-14 totals in 25 games this season with the Kings and is minus-13.
Scherbak posted 28-50-78 totals in 65 games with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades before being selected by the Canadiens in the first round (26th overall) at the 2014 NHL Draft. In 29 career games with the Canadiens, the right-winger had 5-2-7 totals.
Scherbak is the latest in a list of first-round draft picks from six consecutive years who didn’t work out with the Canadiens, including Mike McCarron (25th overall, 2013), Alex Galchenyuk (third, 2012), Nathan Beaulieu (17th, 2011), Jarred Tinordi (22nd, 2010) and Louis Leblanc (18th, 2009). The Canadiens also traded Mikhail Sergachev, their first-round pick in 2016 (ninth overall), to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Jonathan Drouin.
The Canadiens have had better luck with their more recent first-round draft picks, including centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi (third overall in 2018) and defenceman Noah Juulsen (26th overall, 2015), who have both already earned regular spots on the NHL roster, although Juulsen is sidelined with a facial fracture. Centre Ryan Poehling, who was the 25th overall pick at the 2017 draft, has 3-12-15 totals in 14 games this season with St. Cloud State University.
The Canadiens lost forward Jacob de la Rose to the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 16 after he was put on waivers. De la Rose was selected by the Canadiens in the second round (34th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft. In 14 games with the Red Wings, the 23-year-old de la Rose has 1-2-3 totals.
“It’s one of those situations where right now he’s not ready to be part of our team because he wasn’t good enough to push anybody out at this time,” Julien said about Scherbak. “He’s still a young player but, unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity just to send him down to the minors without putting him on waivers. So you lose a player and a lot of teams have to go through that and we just went through it a couple of times already.”
Now another former first-round draft pick is gone from Montreal.