1. Kirill Kabanov
After all of the drama earlier this year concerning one of the top 2010 draft prospects, Kirill Kabanov, in his attempt to flee the KHL for the QMJHL Moncton Wildcats, one would think that it would be smooth sailing for the elite Russian prospect to focus his attention solely on hockey. Well not only does it turn out not to be true, but it seems his defection is coming back to haunt him. With the World Junior Championships coming up in Saskatoon/Regina, the Russian Head Coach Vladimir Plyushchev has no intent on having Kabanov participate on his squad.
Kabanov, who recently had to have corrective surgery on his wrist to repair an old, nagging injury, was originally diagnosed to miss 10-12 weeks and return approximately a month into the New Year. However, even if he makes a quick recovery he would be rejected by the Russian team for his defection to North America and for breaching his contractual rights with the KHL.
Says Kabanov on his coach Vladimir Plyushchev:
He loves his country and heíll never love me anymore. He used to love me but now we have problems with me running from Russia so heíll never take me on the national team while heís coach.
Now while I can understand national pride, this is simply ridiculous. Even though the chances of Kirill being ready come gameday is slim, keeping him out for defecting (which so many Russians have done in the past) is beyond me. Itís this kind of thinking that has the NHL and KHL at a transfer agreement standstill, and hockey fans in Russia and Canada growing harsh feelings towards one another. It has to stop being about our country, our league and our game and people have to start understanding that players need to do whatís best for themselves. Be it for financial, comfort or other reasons, we have to stop the hard feelings towards one another because the whole poaching issue is quickly turning into a hockey version of the Cold War. It hurts when a player bolts and you donít receive any compensation, but thatís his choice and not a reason to start bringing nationality into the picture.
Unfortunately for Kabanov, the lack of the World Junior Championship exposure, not to mention his injury, may slowly start to hurt his draft stock. Even if itís only for a handful of games, NHL teams and especially those with a lottery pick, like to see players go up against the highest levels of competition and succeed. Barring a big run by Moncton to the Memorial Cup, Kabanov may miss out on that opportunity. Kabanov did participate in the U-18ís in Ivan Hlinka last season with a great performance, recording 4 goals and 11 points in 7 games; however itís nowhere near the same kind of stage as the World Juniors. The Russian factor may even start to hurt Kabanovís stock as well, though he would never defect after the way his own country lambasted him for fleeing to North America to have an opportunity of playing in the NHL. People thought there was no way Columbus top prospect Nikita Filatov would ever leave either (even though he is on a loan). Floridaís Dmitri Kulikov, who also was considered a sure-thing to not defect, is a prime example of that sliding effect and slid out of the top ten. It's clear that top Russian prospects are being hurt by the possibility of defection down the road.
Donít be surprised to see the preseason consensus top five pick Kabanov slide down the draft board, especially with the monster seasons Tyler Seguin and Moncton teammate Brandon Gormley are having.
2. 2010 Draft Update
Emerson Eten, Center, Medicine Hat Tigers-WHL: The Long Beach, CA native has exploded out of the gates in this young WHL season and is on pace for over forty goals with 21 goals and 31 points in 33 games. After playing last year for the USNTDP U-17 team, Eten is quickly propelling himself into first round status with his stellar offensive performance.
Jon Merrill, Defense, US U-18- NTDP: The bulking giant that is Jon Merrill, who at age 17 is already 6í3 and 200 pounds, was known this year as one of the premier shutdown defenseman coming into the draft. Never known at all for his offensive ability, Merrill has come out of the gate hot for the U-18 team with 4 goals and 16 points in 26 games. Scouts will definitely be keeping an eye on Jon as the season progresses to analyze not only his physical and defensive game, but to see if his offensive tools have any merit to them.
3. NHL Prospect Update
Nazem Kadri, Center, Toronto Maple Leafs: After being selected 7th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs last June, Kadri has gotten off to a good but not great start for such a highly touted prospect in his last year of Junior with 20 goals and 36 points in 27 games for London in the OHL. Kadri though has had to carry the load after the recent pro graduations of John Tavares (NYI), Michael Del Zotto (NYR) and John Carlson (Wash). Tavares, Del Zotto and Carlson most likely made Kadriís numbers last season seem better than they should have been, but that also makes this yearís numbers all the more impressive. Phillip Varoneís lack of goal-scoring hasnít helped Kadriís cause either and has forced the crafty forward into a more intensified goal-scoring role.
Erik Karlsson, Defense, Ottawa Senators: One of the most dominating forces from last yearís World Junior Championships, Karlsson performed very well for SEL contender Vastra Frolunda last season with 5 goals and 10 points in 45 games despite only playing ten minutes per game. Karlsson has displayed his offensive skills in Ottawaís AHL affiliate Binghamton with 0 goals and 11 assists in 12 games and has earned multiple stints in the NHL. His defensive game has always been somewhat in question, but the man can lead a power play unlike many others.
Cody Hodgson, Center, Vancouver Canucks: One of the leagueís top prospects and a surprising cut from Vancouverís training camp earlier this year has been out and will remain out for an indefinite amount of time with a back injury. Team Canada was surely hoping the elite two-way center would be back by late December for the World Juniors, but it seems Cody will remain out for the tournament. Thus leaving doors open for Greg Nemisz, Tyler Seguin, Brayden Schenn or Nazem Kadri to step up into bigger roles for Canada.
Corey Pronman is a contributor to Puck Prospectus, an Associate Scout for the USHL Sioux Falls Stampede and runs the statistical hockey site The Hock Project. You can contact him at CPronman@fau.edu.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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