(Courtesy of Sportsnet.ca)
All day Friday the hockey newspapers reported Kirill Kabanov was heading to play in Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League (SEL). After weeks of figuring out what his next step in his career would be, Kabanov contemplated the idea of going to Sweden/QMJHL after not making the New York Islanders squad. And (as would be expected) reports questioned Kabanov’s commitment to a career in the pros. His rights were held by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada – formerly the Montreal Juniors – when they selected him in a dispersal draft. The Armada were pegged to be bottom-feeders in the QMJHL this season, a position Kabanov did not see fit for his development. Not to mention, playing against men in the SEL as opposed to kids in the QMJHL would be better developmentally, wouldn’t you think?
Out of the blue, the Shawinigan Cataractes took serious interest in Kabanov’s situation with Blainville. They decided to offer a trade proposal and take a flyer on the Russian who just can’t seem to stray away from the negative spotlight. The Armada had no choice but to deal Kabanov since he would not play for them this season. Later that evening, the deal went through. The following day, Kabanov immediately packed his bags and announced that he would report to Shawinigan for the 2011-12 season.
This may ease some critics views on Kabanov since he will now be playing junior hockey, but there are always those few who just refuse to give him a chance. Looking at the big picture, Kabanov couldn’t be in a better predicament right now. Shawinigan is set to host the 2012 Memorial Cup and, although it is still early in the season, the Cataractes are one point shy of the top spot in the entire league. Kirill also rejoins his former teammates in Lewiston, Pierre-Olivier Morin and Michael Chaput, who helped the Maineiacs achieve success in the playoffs.
Certainly the media hasn’t been kind to Kabanov and some of it was his own wrongdoing, however Kirill isn’t the same person he was leading up to the draft in 2010. He wants to become a better player (both for himself and for his teammates), ultimately making his way onto the New York Islanders. Shawinigan is the next stepping stone for Kabanov. After coming off a very productive playoffs with the Maineiacs, Kabanov’s biggest test this year will be to continue that play consistently throughout the regular season.