The NHL Entry Draft is one of my favourite events of each season, and to prepare for it I’m going to do a reverse top-30 countdown of the eligible players. I’m drawing on math, various independent scouting reports, and the data in the draft issues of McKeen’s and The Hockey News.
Ranked #30 on my list is Kirill Kabanov, the high-end Russian prospect who spent most of this season with Moncton of the QMJHL. Based on pure talent, Kabanov should be ranked much higher, but he has the “Russian factor” working against him as well as some drama with his Major Junior team, the Russian U-18 team and his former agent.
Talent-wise, there are few drawbacks: Kabanov has size and strength, he can shoot and pass, and he’s a high-end skater. He takes undisciplined penalties (he was benched at least once by his junior coach as a result) and nobody seems eager to sing praises about his defensive work, but offensively he’s a top-10 talent.
As for the drama, he rubbed people the wrong way in the KHL because he wanted to come to North America, then he was hurt for much of the season and finally left Moncton after being scratched by his coach, ostensibly to join Russia in preparation for the U-18 championships. He was dropped by the Russian team prior to the tournament, and now his agent has advised him to seek other representation.
Nobody is going to be willing to risk a high pick on Kabanov because he’s such a gamble, but if things break right he’ll be a steal later on in the draft.
McKeen’s Ranking: #31 – “[H]e is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward prospect.”
THN Ranking: #38 – “If it were based on talent alone, Kabanov would be fighting for the No. 1 spot.”