The Kirill Kabanov saga continued yesterday, as it was announced that the embattled forward has left the Moncton Wildcats and will return home to Russia where he will represent his country in next month's World Under-18 Championship in Minsk, Belarus.
As reported on the Wildcats' official site here, Kabanov, who missed 45 of his team's first 56 games because of a wrist injury, is done after a controversial first playoff game against Cape Breton, when he took a bad penalty and was lambasted by his team over it, prompting coach Danny Flynn to bench him for the remainder of the contest. Moncton battled back from behind to take the first game, and then thumped the Screaming Eagles in the second to take a 2-0 series lead.
Kabanov came into the season with a ton of hype as a highly skilled, offensive machine who was showing a commitment to a potential NHL future by coming over to North America to play instead of staying home in the KHL. Things started pretty well for Kabanov, but quickly unraveled in November when he got hurt and needed surgery.
His rehab process was then dogged with rumors of missed team events, practices and various other transgressions that grated on his teammates and came to a head in Game 1. What was obvious at least to one scout in the building watching defenseman David Savard and others on the bench erupt at Kabanov after he took the undisciplined penalty, that the explosion was not about that one single event, but a series of them that, taken together, boiled over in that second period.
So, what next for Kabanov?
Well, beyond the obvious statement that not playing in any games for the next three weeks is going to hurt his draft stock, he now must go to Minsk and perform for Team Russia. The wrist injury was already a red flag for NHL teams, who wanted to see how well it would hold up and how effective he could play in the amped-up playoff atmosphere in the Quebec league, where his team is expected to go deep. Now, without that measuring stick, the laser-like focus will be on Kabanov at the U-18s, where he will have only a few games to prove that he's healthy and worth gambling on.
Let's be real, here. a team would have to be absolutely smitten with Kabanov to take him in the first round at this stage. His injury and questionable conduct has, in my opinion, deep-sixed any thought of him going in the top-30 picks. Now, how low he goes in the second will be directly proportional to how well he does in this one last tournament where he can compete. In February, Russia won the Six Nations tourney in Minsk, so they could do it again at the U-18s. If Kabanov leads his team to gold, he will set up a conundrum for those NHL teams thinking about rolling the dice.
What I'm hearing: his father has a lot of influence on young Kabanov and that's not a very good thing as far as NHL teams are concerned. When you take that, the wrist concerns, the off-ice conduct in Moncton and his dismissal from the team at the most important time of year, it doesn't add up to a promising or rewarding draft day in L.A. for Kabanov.