Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kabanov back with a bang...also check out Marek Hrivik

Out of the Moncton Wildcats' lineup since November with a severe wrist injury that surgery was needed to fix, super-skilled Russian left winger Kirill Kabanov returned to action this weekend and scored goals in consecutive games (both wins, and Moncton is up on Rimouski 2-0 today) to give him 7 goals and 16 points in 13 contests.

Kabanov, who came into the season as an odds-on favorite to land somewhere in the top-five of the 2010 NHL Draft now has a chance to boost his stock which had fallen off. When you're a puck wizard and high end scorer like Kabanov is, any damage to the wrist becomes a major red flag for NHL teams, who can't afford to invest the high picks and money to boot on damaged goods.

The Boston Bruins went through it firsthand with Sergei Samsonov, who suffered a wrist injury during the 2002-03 campaign after coming off of back-to-back 29-goal seasons, and he's never been the same dangerous player since. When so much of a player's effectiveness stems from the health and full use of his wrists, any kind of severe injury will scare teams off worse than the plague.

Also working against Kabanov is the fact that he's Russian. Yes, he's come over to North America and yes, he's a great kid by all accounts who speaks English well and has adjusted nicely to the culture, lifestyle and game in Moncton. But, he's still Russian, and with the way things went down with Nikita Filatov this year, some teams simply aren't going to roll the dice on him. Maybe if Kabanov's name was Carl Cabaniss and he were from the Maritimes as opposed to Moscow, his dynamic skill and upside might be enough to secure a top-five selection, but Kabanov will still have his work cut out for him to land there.

It's fantastic that he's back and appears to not be suffering the ill-effects of the surgery. Teemu Pulkkinen, who went through the same thing, appears to be finding the back of the net as well. So, that's good news for the guys who are going to have to be highly productive and competitive in a much shorter window of time in order to get the early call at the draft.

Kabanov has generated a lot of buzz and rightfully so, but it would take a major leap of faith by any NHL in the top-five to call his name in Los Angeles. Of course, if he goes on a scoring tear for the final games of the regular season, then helps the Wildcats deep into the QMJHL playoffs and contributes to an appointment in Brandon, Manitoba, where the 2010 Memorial Cup will be played, then anything is possible whether he's a risky Russian pick or not.

Another guy to watch on that loaded Moncton squad is Slovak forward Marek Hrivik, who was passed over last summer, but has been a decent scorer in his rookie Q season, finding the back of the net 23 times in 56 contests. Hrivik has good size (6-1, 191) skills and could get the call in the first three rounds in L.A. If not that high, then I would think at some point, for sure. In my opinion, Hrivik would have been a better option for Boston in the seventh round than forward Ben Sexton, last seen on the Penticton Panthers' (BCHL) third line, was. Sexton was a mediocre player for the Nepean Raiders in Ontario Jr. A in his draft year and according to a Western scout I talked to recently, he's been a mediocre player in British Columbia Jr. A as well. He's got a very good chance of being a mediocre player at Clarkson University next year and beyond. I guess I just don't get that pick.

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