“Playing the NHL is still a dream. Now my agent is communicating with the teams, discussions are in full swing. There are several major leagues in the world, but I want to play in the NHL. I think I can match this level. “
These words were spoken by the striker Nikita Shcherbak in November 2020 in an interview with the French-speaking Canadian TV channel TVA Sports. It was clear that the Francophones were interested in the fate of the Russian striker: it was the Canadians who chose Nikita in the first round of the draft in 2014, and it was in the system of this club that Shcherbak spent four seasons. During this time, Shcherbak did not become not only an NHL star, but did not even come close to the status of a solid player in this league.
Having completely squandered his chances, Nikita turned into a hockey “traveler”, not staying anywhere for a long time. Recently news came from Slovakia that Shcherbak signed with the club “Banska Bystrica”, where he will spend the upcoming season. It will be simply impossible to reach the NHL from this Slovak team, which plays in a stadium with a capacity of less than 3 thousand people.
“Lots of bars, plus something to go to”
The swiftness with which one fall after another occurs in Shcherbak’s career is simply amazing. Just 6 years ago, he was the top avenue in Montreal, expected to become the “new David Pastrnjak”. At the same time, experts sometimes voiced criticism that the Canadians’ scouts were grossly mistaken and that Shcherbak’s potential is much lower than it was supposed.
Of the four seasons spent in the Montreal system, the Russian received an invitation to the main team only in two, having played a total of 29 matches for the Canadiens. Then there were 8 matches for Los Angeles and the most strange transfer to Omsk Avangard, where Shcherbak came in the status of an overseas star, who was not given a chance.
With the “hawks” was signed a giant contract for 3 years and a salary of 60 million rubles per season, but in mid-September the KHL confirmed the re-signing of the contract on more modest terms, and at the end of October it was placed on the list of refusals. 6 (2 + 4) points in 16 matches for Avangard were clearly disappointing, if not scandalous, given that the striker and his wife rented a luxury apartment in Moscow City.
“His wife is an interesting, effective woman. Life in Moscow is very hard, there are many temptations, many restaurants and bars, and everything else that you can visit. Plus there is something to go to, I think it sucked him in “, – said the then president of Avangard in an interview with Super-Omsk Maxim Sushinsky, to whom the acquisition of Shcherbak also backfired very strongly.
Then a contract was signed with the Chelyabinsk “Tractor”, and the forward’s agent Sergei Isakov said that Nikita “will do everything possible to revive the former glory.” These intentions remained unfulfilled: in 15 matches for Traktor, Shcherbak scored 1 goal and gave 4 assists.
Strengthening for the tenth team of the Slovakian championship?
It was clear that after such an unsuccessful return to Russia, Shcherbak would not find a place in the KHL. The forward, accustomed to the North American lifestyle, left for the AHL, where he played 28 appearances for the Texas Stars (5 goals, 15 assists). And it seems that at the age of 25 it is difficult to say that a hockey player has no opportunity to return to the National Hockey League. But the NHL doesn’t like shot down pilots, and Shcherbak’s reputation worked against him.
Season 2021/2022 Nikita will spend (at least start) in the Slovak team “Banska Bystrica”, which is based in the city of the same name. There are no big names in this team – except that a famous player in the past works as an assistant to the head coach. Tomasz Surowy… Banska Bystrica definitely does not belong to the favorites of the Slovak championship: last year the club took 10th place out of 12, having been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
“As the start of the season approached, we were looking for an opportunity to increase competition in the team, looking for reinforcements in the position of the extreme forward. Nikita has played in North America for a long time and has over 200 AHL experience. When we had the opportunity to invite him, we happily agreed. It is a well-known name in the hockey community. We are very pleased that he chose Banska Bystrica to continue his career and start a new path in Europe, ”said the sports manager of the club, Julius Koval.
It is difficult to assess the prospects for Shcherbak in Slovakia, since both the level of the team and the level of readiness of the striker himself are known to a minimum. Well, for the forward’s companion, this move may not be the easiest one, since Banska Bystrica is, of course, not Moscow City, because the entire population of this town is less than 100 thousand people. And the forward will play for a penny. But there is a ski resort nearby, countless palaces and churches for which old Europe is famous – at least some advantages.