Kabanov from his photo site in which he adds the tongue-in-cheek title, "Kirill Kabanov the new tsar of Russia."
As promised, it’s time to start highlighting some of the Russian prospects you may not have heard much about –guys who will be available for this year’s draft. And since it’s the first of several posts, we might as well start with the most controversial Russian eligible for the 2010 NHL draft to pique your interest.
Kirill Kabanov is riddled with controversy. Google his name and you’ll find rumors that make Alexander Semin’s early NHL drama seem like kids play. I won’t bother to take up room with extensive details, but after a buyout with the KHL, he came to Moncton of the QMJHL this year only to run back to Russia for the under-20 World Championships when faced with little playing time in Moncton. When the coach there didn’t like what he saw, he was essentially cut from the Russian team and left in limbo.
The details are sketchy and rumors abound. Some say his dad is controlling and forced him to abandon Moncton and go back to Russia. Other say Kabanov’s cocky and needs to be brought down a notch. Still others, like his coach in Russia, say that he thinks he’s better than he really is and needs to learn a lesson. Whatever the truth, his stock in this year’s draft has declined greatly.
However, at this year’s combine, Kabanov gave one of the most impressive interviews I’ve ever seen from a guy his age. Maybe he was groomed for the interview by his father or his agent, but it’s hard to pull off sincerity in a foreign language unless that’s exactly what it is –- sincere. Take a look at the interview and I think you’ll see a humble, intelligent and honest 17 year old who seems wise beyond his years. Let’s not forget — he’s just a kid!
He admitted he made a mistake leaving Moncton and that he was stupid. He emphasized that point with a Russian proverb, which personally I found quite thoughtful and endearing. He declared his intention to play in the US, wherever that might be. I know we’ve all heard that before, but there was no attitude in his voice, no sneer on his face. He said it all with a genuine smile and the heart of someone who reflects on their mistakes and tries to become a better person for it.
I admit I’m biased. I love the Russians. But I’m also a chronic cynic and have found nothing but honesty and maturity in this kid. Whatever he has gone through this year, he has grown tremendously and will be far ahead of many other picks in that respect in this year’s draft. And let’s not forget, Kabanov is smart, both on and off the ice. Yeah, I know I’ve said I love the personality and cockiness some of these guys bring to professional hockey, but in this case, I’ll take him just the way he is.
Good luck to Kirill in this year’s draft. The goddesses will be wishing him the very best. I predict he will become a star in the NHL and sooner, rather than later and it’s a savvy team that takes a chance on him.
Photo: Kirill Kabanov from his own photo-sharing site at flickr.com.