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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.

Comments (6)

  1. I can tell you the following:

    When Kabanov arrrived in Moncton, before even stepping on the ice, he was hyped in the area far more than Crosby ever was in Rimouski. There were “Nickname for Kabanov” contests, discount tickets for Kabanov’s first game in his honour, front-page articles and photos every day about him in the local paper (incidentally owned by the same people who run the Wildcats). By junior hockey standards, the Wildcats are a hype machine like none other… and often they’re not very smart about it.

    Some believe the hype began to irritate other star players on the team, and that the attention may have gone to Kabanov’s head. Understandable, given that Kabanov was used to being a small fish in a big pond in Moscow, only to be granted God status on his arrival to small-town Canada, fawned over off-the-ice everywhere he went.

    Still, by all accounts he was a really good kid, personable, great in the community.

    The only issue I’ve heard of was Kabanov not adhering to the Wildcats’ strict dress code off the ice.

    Word has it there was a feeling of resentment among some of the other Wildcat “star players” who felt Kabanov was getting preferential treatment, but if ice time was any indication this certainly wasn’t the case. Since Kabanov’s return from wrist surgery he had mostly been playing on the 3rd line.

    Fast-forward to game 1 of the first round against Cape Breton last Friday. Early in the second period, Kabanov took an undisciplined penalty, Cape Breton scored on the ensuing powerplay, and as Kabanov skated back to the bench he was absolutely reamed by star defenseman David Savard, in a very public, obvious fashion in front of the entire building. Never saw anything like it in hockey, and Flynn did nothing to stop it… although he did stick the “C” on Savard’s jersey the very next night.

    Kabanov was benched for the remainder of the 2nd period (understandably), but for whatever reason, he wasn’t on the bench in the 3rd period. Flynn made him a healthy scratch for game 2, and now he’s headed for U18s and it doesn’t sound like he’ll be back.

    Worth noting that Flynn has had a poor track record in developing European players, and has given on many of them very quickly.

  2. @Matt
    Sounds like you are critical of the wildcats promotion methods but i think you have to respect the fact they have to do that in order to increase attention and ticket sales to keep the team profitable and in that city.

    as for kabanov he could be a great opportunity for a team like the leafs move up in the draft to get a second round pick and gamble on a kid who could be as a good as a 1st round prospect considering the leafs do not have a 1st rounder this year since kabanov will certainly fall in the draft because of this situation.

  3. I agree that the team hyped him up before he played, but why not? Every team needs a star to generate interest. Kabanov did a stellar job playing up to it before he even played a game, visiting local schools and giving kids a real thrill (he signed practically half of my son’s school supplies AND his arm). When he did play, his point-per-game pace and skating style reminded me of Kovalev in his younger days.

    That he had a run-in with the coach and was benched due to a bad penalty, and later returned to play for his home country should be tempered with the fact that he is not yet 18 and has had a very trying year.

    While it’s unlikely we’ll see him in a Wildcats jersey again this year, I sincerely hope he’s back in camp next fall.

  4. Matt: Thanks for that information!

  5. Bruce: I have no problem with them creating hype, but they went way overboard in my opinion, they didn’t consider the big picture and it ended up biting them in the ass.

    Putting a 17-year-old rookie at the top of the totem pole in the community before he even stepped on the ice was obviously not going to sit too well with established players, especially when Flynn emphasizes “team-first” on and off the ice. Many of these guys have extremely “big” personalities and egos…. top priority should be to try to avoid and minimize potential distractions in the dressing room (or on the ice, in this case).

    Kabanov had to deal with a lot this year, the KHL contract debacle, adapting to life in Canada, missing half the year because of wrist surgery and now this. Tough year for a good kid, it’s a shame to see him get labeled a “cancer” because of a situation that was largely out of his control and could have been prevented.

  6. There’s more to the story. Apart from the shout-down Kabanov was given by Savard, there was another Wildcats player, Kelsey Tessier, who skated over to Kabanov in the penalty box and gave him a pretty decent growl as well. When the stupid penalty led to a power play goal, Kabanov skated back to the bench with a smirk on his face, leading to the Savard growling. His return to Russia has nothing to do with the U18 tournament next month. This is a purge of a player who never “bought in” and was called out by his mates. And coach.

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