2014 NHL Draft: Montreal Canadiens draft review

By David Thicke

Nikita Scherbak - Montreal Canadiens

Photo: Winger Nikita Scherbak was one of six picks the Montreal Canadiens made in the 2014 NHL Draft. Scherbak was selected 26th overall. (courtesy of Derik Hamilton/Icon SMI)

 

The Montreal Canadiens came to the 2014 NHL Entry Draft with seven picks and would be selecting late in each round. The only trade the Canadiens made was in the third round when the team exchanged their third and fourth round selections to the Arizona Coyotes for an earlier third round pick in order to select targeted defenseman, Brett Lernout.

In the end, the Canadiens came away with players that address some needs in the depth chart and added more balance to the organization’s prospect group. Director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins followed Marc Bergevin’s mandate of selecting players with good hockey sense, skill, character, and work ethic, but still managed to add toughness and size to the forward group. Montreal spread their six selections across every position and three of their draftees are committed to the longer development path of the NCAA.

Nikita Scherbak, RW, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
1st Round, 26th overall
Height: 6-2 Weight: 174 lbs

Scherbak was expected to go much earlier in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry draft but fell to the Canadiens likely due to the Russian factor. He was outstanding playing as a first year rookie in the WHL and was the top scorer on a bottom placed Saskatoon Blades’ team. The 18-year-old led the league’s rookies in scoring by 19 points and should have been named “Rookie of the Year” for the WHL.

Timmins and Bergevin felt that the talented winger’s potential was too good to pass on him with their first round selection. His overall game improved as the season progressed and he was the best player available according to the team’s scouting group.

His playmaking, vision, and shot are top notch but his acceleration and defensive play need more development. He possesses top line skills but is not aggressive enough around the net and can be a perimeter player at times. The young Russian is a quick study with a high hockey IQ, is a strong character, and adapts well to new surroundings. He was able to explain the Blades systems to the coaching staff after sitting in the stands watching the team practice while awaiting his visa to be issued and being cleared to play. Scherbak could eventually be a great fit with Alex Galchenyuk as they both think and see the game the same way.

Scherbak met with the media in a lively scrum following his selection by the Canadiens, with his comments being captured in this HF video.

Brett Lernout, D, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
3rd round, 73rd overall
Height: 6-4 Weight: 205 lbs

The Canadiens felt strongly about moving draft picks in order to select Lernout. His potential of playing in the NHL is excellent but not likely as a top four defenseman unless his puck-moving significantly improves at the pro level. He is the big, tough, nasty crease clearer that is missing in the team’s talent pool and he is just very difficult to play against every shift.

His skating is very good for a big man. It allows him to have excellent gap control and keep solid positioning defensively. The big man thrives to make life miserable for opposing forwards down low and is not afraid to drop the gloves with anyone. His offensive upside could be better than expected with his booming point shot and passing skills. Lernout definitely fits a big need on the Canadiens’ defense corps.

Nikolas Koberstein, D, Olds Grizzlys (AJHL)
5th Round, 125th overall
Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 lbs

Again the organization chose a prospect that plays the game with an edge. Koberstein is considered a long term development project as he has a five-year development time frame. The 18-year-old will returns to the AJHL and the Grizzlys before going to Alaska-Fairbanks in 2015-16 season.

Koberstein is a puck-mover that skates well with good offensive upside and plays aggressively in all three zones. The defenseman played in all the important situations for his team as a 17-year-old and will be the captain of his team this coming season. His character and work ethic as well as leadership qualities are a good match for Montreal’s criteria for their prospects. This has the potential to be a sleeper pick by Timmins at the 2014 NHL draft.

Daniel Audette, C, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QJMHL)
5th Round, 147th overall
Height: 5-8 Weight: 168 lbs

Audette was not selected because his father, Donald played and now works for the Canadiens. The young center was chosen for his offensive skill. Timmins felt that the organization could not overlook his talent despite his small stature or the team could miss out on another possible Brendan Gallagher-type prospect.

Audette is a playmaker with good vision and patience when waiting for openings. His overall offensive skills are very solid but he can be a defensive liability at times and needs big improvement away from the puck. His size leaves him not aggressive in the corners and can stay to the perimeter while avoiding the dirty areas. He can finish but seems to create more plays handling the puck. His skating will need more speed as he gains weight to play at the pro level.

Prior to his selection at the NHL Draft by the Canadiens, Audette took part in the 2014 NHL Combine. He met with the media at this event, with his comments being captured in this HF video.

Hayden Hawkey, G, Omaha Lancers (USHL)
6th Round, 177th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 lbs

Hawley was the USHL goaltender of the year and the first goalie in 12 years to have a sub 2.00 goals against average in the USHL. This was another selection with a five-year development plan. Timmins likes the fact that the young netminder was returning to the Omaha Lancers for another year at the junior level before heading to Providence College in 2015-16 as a possible backup or replacement for Jon Gillies (CGY).

Hawley is very quick laterally, possesses solid positioning, and is technically sound, but he needs to work on his rebound control and play the puck. He is still a very raw talent but has the work ethic and drive to succeed. The 18-year-old could be a potential starter at the NHL level but a long road ahead before reaching that upside.

Jake Evans, C/W, St. Michaels Buzzers (OJHL)
7th round, 207th overall
Height: 6-2 Weight: 199 lbs

This is another long term project selection by Montreal’s scouting group as Evans starts at Notre Dame this coming fall and will probably take the four full years of development time at the NCAA level. Timmins believes that the late round pick has the potential to be a bottom-six forward that can check top line defensive players and chip in occasionally with some offense.

Evans is a solid two-way player with a strong character and is physically engaged in all three zones. His skating is good but needs better acceleration to be more of an offensive threat when carrying the puck at the pro level. His hockey IQ is very good, he sees the ice well, and makes good passing decisions. He does however need to use his shot more often.

Following the 2014 NHL Draft, Canadiens’ Director of Amateur Scouting Trevor Timmins spoke met with the media to discuss some of the players chosen by the club at this draft. His comments from that scrum are included in this HF video.

Other Notes

The Canadiens signed free agent forward Jiri Sekac to a two-year NHL entry level contract on July 1st. He is a highly skilled winger with good puck possession skills and playmaking capabilities. The 21-year old has played two years in the KHL with solid results this past season. His defensive game is not bad but could use more work, and he needs to gain more strength and size. He will be given a good opportunity out of training camp to make the Canadiens roster or could be sent to Hamilton in order to adjust to the North American style and speed.