The Kabanov Konundrum

Josh ReindersContributor IApril 9, 2010

Since the disappointment is starting to set in as the end of the season comes for my Leafs and Flames I begin to look forward to the playoffs and the draft soon afterwards. Since I have to wait to watch my other favorite team and only playoff bound favorite, the Nashville Predators, in the playoffs, I decided to look ahead to the draft and to a very interesting story that has been developing for some time time now.

I am of course talking about the story of Kirill Kabanov. Sure, I could go on Hall or Seguin or Etem or any number of players but Kirill Kabanov provides a much better anecdote.

Kabanov was born in Russia and played hockey there, up until this past November. Following an intense desire to play in the NHL, he and his agent (JP Barry) though it best to move him to a Canadian league. This was done in all likelihood demonstrate to teams that he wanted to move from Russia to the North American game and as such do away with the transfer enigma that the NHL and Russian hockey leagues have experienced over the past couple years. He even stated that he "didn't care how much money the KHL offered" him.  Great start right?

Not so much. While this was a great thing indeed, it took time to negotiate the transfer as oth Moncton (the QMJHL league that drafted his rights) and Ufa (the Russian team he signed a deal with) fought over his rights. Kabanov ended up missing the first 10 games of the season. Not a big deal to his draft ranking for the upcoming NHL draft, as Kabanov stayed solid at the number 4 spot behind only Hall, Seguin and Fowler.

Kabanov finally got his wish and began to play in North America but shortly thereafter suffered a wrist injury, an injury that caused him to miss a large chunk of the Wildcats season and the 2010 World Juniors. Not being able to play until February of this year, Kabanov's stock started to fall. From December to January the ISS dropped Kirill 4 spots to number 8.

February came and he finally began to play, and Kabanov began to show why he was once considered a top 5 pick for the 2010 draft. Tallying 23 point in 22 games  (including 10 goals), Kabanov was one of only 3 rookies to be playing at a point per game pace. Kabanov actually jumped up one spot and looked to be on the rise.

Then the Q playoffs come and for some reason Kabanov decides to leave his team for the Russian U18 team, while Moncton is smack in the middle of their first round match-up. Warning flags start to rise up and the NHL central scouting group decides to drop Kabanov all the way out of the first round to the 31st spot (the ISS rankings for April have not year come out). From 7th to 31st, Kabanov drops drastically, and yet the worst hasn't hit.

Just today Sovietsky Sport, a Russian sports media outlet, has been reporting that just 16 days after leaving Moncton, Kabanov has been kicked off the U18 team that Russia has been putting together. Apparently the Russian coach wasn't happy with the way Kabanov acted saying, "Kabanov came and thought 'Here I am, a star from Canada, who will save all.' But it's the team that wins rather than an individual player."

While Kabanov's agent denies that was the case, stating that Kabanov is being blacklisted for leaving the KHL (which isn't out of the realm of possibility), the report throw up huge red flags for a player that has oft been reported as being a selfish, somewhat self engaged player.

How far Kabanov could fall will be only be known on draft day, but what is known, is that Kabanov has placed himself in a tough situation. Already having caused his draft stock to fall significantly, it could fall further as teams will no doubt question his will to play. With recent defections like Radulov and Filatov still fresh in the minds of many, the once top 5 draft pick could fall out of the first round.

So would you want this talented youngster? Would sacrifice a 15th or 16th place first d to draft him or would you let him pass? What is of no doubt, is that the team that picks him will either be severely disappointed at picking him far to early, or will joyously ecstatic at grabbing him so late.