Nikita Scherbak was starry-eyed on several levels when he arrived in Los Angeles to join the Kings.
Scherbak, from Russia, remembers being awestruck visiting the area as a 10-year-old with his youth hockey team.
“For me, back then, going to Disneyland, I was like, ‘Oh, my God. This is a dream. California dreaming,’” Scherbak said. “Since then, I’ve never been [back]. This is my legitimate first time around … I’ve seen all the posters in the streets [with] LeBron James. Like I said, [it’s a] dream. For me, I’m living the dream right now. It’s unbelievable. I’m enjoying every second.”
Scherbak practiced with the Kings for the first time Tuesday, along with fellow waiver-wire pickup Brendan Leipsic. They are depth forwards who might be needed more than initially expected after interim coach Willie Desjardins said that Trevor Lewis suffered a setback with a fractured foot, which initially happened Nov.16.
“He’s going to be out for a while,” Desjardins said. “We thought it was going to be something a little quicker, and now they have to reevaluate it.”
A first-round draft pick by the Montreal Canadiens, Scherbak, 22, was stunned by the waivers move. Montreal coach Claude Julien told reporters that Scherbak had a poor training camp and was sent to the minors to find his game but also noted that Montreal would have liked to keep him. Scherbak said he was not given a reason for the move but “it’s a fresh start and I’m excited because I have so many people to prove wrong again.”
He is equally jazzed at meeting boyhood idol Ilya Kovalchuk. Scherbak remembers seeing Kovalchuk play in a charity game in Moscow and was among the kids asking for his stick when Kovalchuk exited the ice.
“I remember I got somebody’s stick but it was [an Alex] Ovechkin model at that time,” Scherbak said. “I was freaking out. The first couple of games I was sleeping with it.
“I’m really excited to meet [Kovalchuk]. I don’t know how it’s going to go. Hopefully not too awkward. But I heard he’s a great guy, so I think he’s going to help me a little bit.”
Scherbak said he’s cleared from an injury but did not know the status of his immigration paperwork. Leipsic skated on the fourth line with Nate Thompson and Michael Amadio and is expected to make his debut Tuesday after the Vancouver Canucks placed him on waivers.
Both he and Scherbak are on expiring contracts, but both have speed and the skills to make an impression. Leipsic, a former 120-point scorer in junior hockey, is with his fifth NHL team.