Islanders fans, meet Kirill Kabanov, either a future star of future headache for your franchise. And given his early impression at camp yesterday, the uber-talented, but uber-enigmatic prospect may already be veering towards the latter.
Despite spending the summer on Long Island, on the the first day of Islanders’ rookie camp, Kabanov arrived late and was held out of the skate, according to NYI Point Blank’s Chris Botta.
Those familiar with the Russian winger’s backstory know this latest incident is nothing new. Here’s a short sampling of the oddities that pock-marked the superlative prospect in his draft year:
A rumor dogged him that he took a “sick day” from his QMJHL team, the Moncton Wildcats, then showed up sporting a few new tattoos.
Another rumor claims he took a Caribbean vacation after telling the team he was heading back to the Motherland to visit family.
When Moncton GM Bill Schurman told Kabanov he wouldn’t see much ice time with the Wildcats with the playoffs approaching, Kabanov and Schurman decided it would be best if Kabanov left to compete for Russia’s U-18 team.
When Kabanov got to camp for the U-18 team, he was kicked off the squad for allegedly defying coach Mikhail Vasiliev’s orders not to eat peanuts from a bowl in Vasiliev’s office. Another version of the story claims the cut was because Kabanov wore a different-color helmet and his teammates and coaches believed him to be a prima donna, ribbing him with the nickname “American Bubble Gum.” Yet another blames the Russian program for punishing him for leaving home to play in the CHL.
To quell concerns about his erratic behavior, agent J.P. Barry brought him to stay at the agent’s Calgary home … before cutting him loose just a few weeks before the draft.
Kabanov showed enough talent to cover up some of his foibles/quirks, but not enough to get him drafted before the third round last June. A few years back he was thought to be among the most promising prospects in the 2010 draft, so he could be among the top steals in the draft if the Islanders can keep him in line. To that end, head coach Scott Gordon took a hard stance when it came to yesterday’s tardiness.
Via Newsday, when asked if he was disappointed by Kabanov's actions, Gordon replied, “Not as disappointed as he’s going to be.”
Botta reported today that Kabanov skated hard, though some of it was not of his choosing.
For all of his missteps to this point, it’s important to keep in mind that Kabanov is still just a teenager. And before you get too angry at his actions (or lack thereof) you may want to remember the responsibilities you shirked in your youth. Still, he’s going to have to get his act straight in order to succeed at the professional level.
Whether or Kabanov can stick with the Islanders, we’ll soon find out. But should he not make the roster, it’s doubtful he’ll return to Russia.
Kabanov spoke with ESPN The Magazine’s Lindsay Berra last spring and was still rather annoyed at his dismissal from the U-18 national team.
“I'm not going to apologize for eating a peanut from a bowl on a table where everyone can take them," Kabanov said in the interview. "They promised me something. I left Moncton in the playoffs so I would have a chance to play for Russia and show what I could do before the draft. It was my last chance, and they said, 'Sorry, you're season is over.' It's not polite and I will remember this for all of my life.”
Earlier in his young career, Kabanov bashed the KHL, calling it an "imitation league" and "full of corruption" in a 2008 article by the Toronto Star. So, yeah, Russia? Not so much. Whether or not Moncton will welcome him back is unclear as well.
If the Islanders believe in him, they may give him a contract simply to keep a close eye on him, even if it’s in Bridgeport. And with his immense ability, Kabanov may not be far off from the NHL anyway.
Here’s some more reading on Kabanov.
Earlier this summer, Puck Prospectus’s Corey Pronman defended Kabanov and was appalled by his drop in the prospect rankings.
ESPN The Magazine’s Lindsay Berra discusses the risk factor of drafting Russians for the NHL Draft Blog (Insider). Gare Joyce takes a few comprehensive looks at his story as well if you check the archives.
In other prospect news, first-rounder Nino Niederreiter has a shot of making the Isles out of training camp.
Finally, congratulations to Isles goalie coach Mike Dunham on his selection to the University of Maine’s sports hall of fame. Dunham was a former netminder for the Islanders, Rangers and Devils, but most notably graduated from my high school, Canterbury (New Milford, Conn.).