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Kirill Kabanov is one of the top-rated prospects for this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.  He came over to North America to play Major Junior, joining the Moncton Wildcats, but injuries have limited him to just 23 games, in which he has recorded 23 points.  He was virtually guaranteed to go in the first half of the draft, despite his difficulty staying in the line-up.

Now, it’s anyone’s guess where he’ll end up getting selected.  I’m in total agreement with Guy Flaming’s take on the move:

This is a very strange decision for a player in his draft year, especially one who has tried so hard to distance himself from the idea that Russian players are a risk to select because they mind not come over.
This could really backfire on Kabanov come June 25th in Los Angeles. The Russian has been a top 15-rated prospect all season despite a lengthy injury.

 

There’s really no good way to spin this.  The official reason provided by the team is that Kabanov wants to take part in the Under-18 World Championship, but given that Moncton’s in the middle of the playoff run and the tournament doesn’t start for nearly a month, it’s a fairly ridiculous story.

Flaming also passes on that Kabanov was benched for the third period of Moncton’s first playoff game, and then scratched for the second game; as a result he speculates that head coach Danny Flynn may have been the motivation behind Kabanov’s move.

While this decision is almost certainly going to hurt Kabanov more than anyone else, it’s difficult to see how this moves makes sense for Moncton.  Kabanov’s one of only three forwards to perform at a point-per-game clip and a key component of their power play; unless there is some significant behind-the-scenes stuff (although that’s possible) going on I’d imagine the team deserves some heat here as well. 

Hopefully we’ll be getting more information soon.