As a 17-year-old entering his draft year, Kirill Kabanov had one dream: to play in the National Hockey League.
Two years, three major junior teams, several agents and a half-dozen controversies later, Kabanov is singing a different tune about his decision to come to North America.
“Everyone [in Russia] kept saying ‘NHL, NHL’,” Kabanov told Igor Eronko of Russian website Sports.ru. “You get there and will be famous. As a boy I had an impression [the NHL] was paradise. But when I came here I realized that the made-up image and reality are different things.”
Kabanov came to North America in hopes of raising his exposure in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He left home to join the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, causing a tidal wave of accusations that the Moscow native had defected and violated the terms of a Kontinental Hockey League contract.
Then came the wrist injury. Suffered before coming to Moncton, Kabanov’s season was shut down just days into his major junior career, forced to have surgery on an injured wrist. Once healthy enough to compete, the Wildcats no longer saw a place for Kabanov.
Hoping to show his skills just months before the draft, Kabanov joined Russia’s entry into the World Under-18 Championship. That plan faltered after being removed from the club by head coach Mikhail Vasiliev.
Two months later agent JP Barry parted ways with Kabanov, just weeks before the draft. Once projected to compete as a potential first overall pick, the six-foot-three, 176-pounder fell to the New York Islanders 65th overall.
After what seemed to be a rebound year with the Lewiston MAINEiacs, Kabanov was nominated for the QMJHL’s Humanitarian of the Year Award. The MAINEiacs folded after Kabanov’s only season there. He was picked up by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in Lewiston’s dispersal draft.
When Kabanov, now 19, failed to make the Islanders out of training camp, he was reassigned to the Armada. Because he was drafted out of the Canadian Hockey League, Kabanov wasn’t eligible to be assigned to the American Hockey League.
But with two import players already suiting up in Blainville-Boisbriand, Kabanov hasn’t reported. The club hasn’t been able to facilitate a trade for Kabanov’s rights, either.
Instead, Kabanov and his agent are hoping to work on a solution themselves, which could come in the form of a loan or transfer to a European league.
These many events have finally caused Kabanov to call into question his decision to advance his hockey career in North America and have given him more than enough spare time to consider the hockey path he’s chosen.
“Perhaps I made a mistake that I didn’t stay [in the KHL] and went [to North America] hoping I’d be the number one pick,” Kabanov said.
Quotes translated by Dmitry Chesnokov via Twitter.
Aaron Vickers is the managing editor of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!