Every year thereís a pick in the NHL Entry Draft that is questionable. This year prime examples included the Rangers taking tough/shutdown guy Dylan McIlrath 10th overall, Jack Campbell going 11th to Dallas and even Florida taking Gudbranson with the 3rd overall pick. In 2009 it was Schroeder sliding to 22 for Vancouver, and Dmitri Kulikov watching five defensemen go before him. Scouting is a subjective thing and people will always make unpredictable picks because not everyone will agree on the right players to draft.
However, nothing in my years of covering the Draft matches up to what happened with Kirill Kabanov last month. As I was sitting there on the Draft floor in Los Angeles and as the end of the first round winded to a close it was disappointing to see that Kabanovís name wasnít called, but it is understandable not wanting to use a 1st round signing bonus on a player that you really donít. Then Day 2 came around, and names such as Dalton Smith, Brett Bulmer, Brad Ross, Sebastien Wannstrom, Curtis Hamilton and Phil Lane went off the board in the second round, and by the time Chicago picked up big Stephen Johns out of the USNTDP to close the second round, Kirill was still available.
There seemed to be no logical explanation for why Kirill Kabanov was still on the board as the 61st overall pick was selected. Logic would eventually prevail, but not before the Oilers took Ryan Martindale, Toronto selected Greg McKegg, Tampa Bay chose Brock Beukeboom, and Calgary used their first pick of the Draft on Maxwell Reinhart at 64. Then it happened, the Islanders who just used the 5th overall pick the day before to select Nino Niederreiter took another top five talent in Kabanov with the 65th overall pick.
So what happened between Point A and Point B? Point A is when Kabanov was widely considered a top five player for this Draft. Bob McKenzieís preliminary rankings had Kabanov at 4. Bobís rankings are based off NHL scouts he surveyed so this wasnít his subjective call but rather the feel from around the league. In
January he had him at 9 with this as a capsule for him:
ďKabanov, a Russian with game-breaking qualities, has been injured much of the season. He has played in only 11 games because of a wrist injury that required surgery in November. He's scheduled to return to the lineup in mid-February or thereabouts.Ē
Nothing mentioned about his character flaws or intangible issues yet. That article was released on January 26th 2010 when he was ranked 9th according to a consensus amongst NHL scouts. Fast-forward to June and the final rankings had him at 43.
Using the same method for ISS, letís use this for their rankings:
November 16th: 4
December 23rd: 4
January 16th: 8
February 16th: 7
March 16th: 7
April: Outside of Top 30, unpublished
Final Rankings: 45
Central Scouting is harder to follow, but they had him at 15 in their Mid-Terms for North American Skaters and 31st in their finals.
Red Line Report
October 24th: 4
November 23rd: 4
December 22nd: 7
January 22nd: 7
February 17th: 9
March 17th: 9
April 18th: Not in published Top 10
The same repeats for their May and June updates
Final Ranking: 54
So now letís step back and analyze this. NHL scouts and professional scouting services all came to a consensus that before the season started that Kirill Kabanov should be a Top 5 pick.
However, around December and January, he went down into the 8 and 9 range. This coincided with a wrist injury that took away a lot of his playing time in the QMJHL. He was also playing well but he wasnít exactly blowing the doors down in the Q so there is a logical reason for why they would drop him a couple of notches. I need to reiterate this point because itís extremely important:
At the end of January 2010, Kirill Kabanov was a consensus Top 10 pick.
Is anyone here getting the point yet? If not letís move on because you surely will get it before Iím done. In the previous time frame, Kabanov also was suspended by the KHL for failing to adhere to his contract and going to the QMJHL, but at the time nobody read anything into that about his character other than him wanting to showcase himself in North America.
In Moncton he wasnít exactly a coachís favorite. His ice time was cut on a few occasions and he had the occasional incident. There wasnít anything that was headline worthy; just immature things, but Kabanov never did anything bad that would be out of the norm for a star teenager. Then the playoffs rolled around. Iím going to reference my friend in hockey Alessandro Seren Rosso on this one:
ďAs soon as the playoffs started, Kabanov had a very bad game. It can happen, but he went well beyond that. He was benched midway in the second period and didn't come back on the ice in the third one. He was yelled at by two teammates on two different occasions. He took a bad penalty in the first while Moncton was on the PP. He jumped on the ice when he wasn't supposed to be playing. In the second period, another bad penalty when his team had just made it an even game and it cost a goal. He left the penalty box and one of his teammates gave him an earful. He wasn't back with the team in the final stanza, they were losing 3-2. They scored 4 goals in the third period and won 6-3, as reported by C. Fortier.Ē
Yes, that was stupid. But was he a clubhouse cancer? I would debate otherwise.
Then he was told he wouldnít be playing at all in the playoffs, which has happened before with other players. Then heís released to his Russia U-18 team in which he and teammate Ivan Telegin were kicked off the team (even though Teleginís draft stock was not altered at all mind you). Referencing the same piece:
"I removed him from the team because we thought Kabanov would help us, but he brought only confusion to the team," Vasiliev told Sovietsky Sport. "Kabanov came and thought 'Here I am, a star from Canada, who will save all.' But it's the team that wins rather than an individual player." He also added that "Kabanov doesn't know how to behave", and that "Kabanov's main problem is discipline. He does whatever he wants and not what coaches ask him".
Sounds like an awful person. I surely would never use a second round pick on a guy with an attitude like this even though everyone was at a consensus as to him being a top five pick in the preseason and a top ten pick at the end of January.
The next major incident was the agent issue which had to do more with Kabanovís father as opposed to Kirill. Sergei Kabanov has a reputation for being too over controlling, too demanding and the main reason why Kabanov has gone through multiple agents this year. I thought it was three, but a NHL agent I talked to at the Draft told me it was four, when another agent came in and chimed in that it was actually five.
Essentially, with Kabanovís draft stock falling drastically from a consensus Top 10 pick at the end of January, to a consensus 2nd rounder at the end of the season, to a 3rd rounder this past month, we watched a potentially elite talent fall 55 spots over a five month span. Think about that for a second. Think about that long and hard and ponder whether it truly make sense in your mind. Kabanov wasnít even a threat to leave for Russia, as heís said on numerous occasions that he wants to stay in North America and he has acquired distaste for the KHL.
Hereís the major problem I have with all of the, ďimmature, head case, poison pillĒ talk Iím hearing on Kabanov. How come it took everyone until that five month time span to figure this out? If he was a 2nd to 3rd round pick worthy head case how come such a highly touted prospect, who scouts have been following very closely for years, didnít figure this out before? Yes, we know he was always an emotional player who took bad penalties, but that hasnít changed and he was still ranked high. So where did all the other issues come from all of a sudden?
This whole situation smells of overreaction, of beating Kabanov up unfairly and of not taking everything into context. Weíve seen immature players develop and weíve seen isolated bad character issues arise that were not treated as a big deal before. However if you want to put all of that aside and just focus on the player at hand, what is the case against Kirill moving out of the first round? A handful of bad antics in Moncton, a bad attitude towards his Russian national coach and an over the top dad? This is why a top talent fell to 65? Is there any other evidence that someone can please present before January 2010 that makes a case for Kabanov not being worthy of a 1st round pick?
Iíll admit heís not the most ideal character. However, the whole situation has been overblown. Heís not a cancer, heís not a bad human being and most importantly he plays hockey at a very high level. People knew for a long time about Kesselís character issues in his draft year. He was obviously a notch above Kabanov, but his stock didnít fall that low. He went at 5th overall.
Kirill may end up being a bust, but I will still stand strong behind my arguments. This situation is overblown and has painted an unfair and false picture of an elite hockey talent. I have one word to summarize this whole debacle.
Follow Corey on Twitter at @coreypronman.
Corey Pronman is an author of Puck Prospectus, runs the statistical hockey site The Hock Project and is the President of Premium Scouting. You can contact him at CPronman@fau.edu.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.