Wednesday, January 13, 2010

One on One: Kirill Kabanov

He hasn't played in two months and Central scouting dropped him in their mid-term rankings to the middle of the 1st round but I still think that on draft day 2010... Kirill Kabanov will be the first Russian name put on the board.

Each week on The Pipeline Show we make a point of introducing another 2010 draft eligible player to the masses and this week's guest was Moncton's sensational import, Kirill Kabanov (Listen HERE). We talked about the injury, how it happened, should it have been handled differently, his relationship with the Russian Hockey Federation and especially head coach Vladimir Plyuschev and how Nikita Filatov's playing in the KHL might impact the Russian draft class of 2010.

By request, the first subject we tackled right away was when he expects to be back on the ice with Moncton and contributing after the surgery to repair his injured wrist.
"Hopefully three weeks. My wrist feels good and I've been working out for three weeks already and I feel good so... I'm going to be on the ice in three weeks."
Just for further clarification, I asked Kabanov if he's completely ruled out the possibility of playing in the CHL's Top Propsects Game next week.
"No. They sent me an invitation letter but I had to say that it would be better to practice for one more week than to [play] in the game."
Kabanov's season started late as he waited for clearance to join the Wildcats on the ice. All that time he was sitting in Moncton but couldn't play; he was around the team and the rink but it was a difficult time that he can finally joke about now.
"Yeah... it was a lot of autographs!" he laughed, "It's really hard to watch the games from the sidelines when you know that you can score and help your team to win the Memorial Cup, it was really hard."
Once he was finally able to play with Moncton, Kabanov had immediate success and quickly racked up 14 points in 11 games. I asked him if playing in the CHL was easier than he had expected.
"No, I think it's the best junior hockey league in the world. Here there is a lot of speed, more than I think in the KHL and i like to play here; there are a lot of fans and Moncton is a very good city. The CHL is a very good league and I am happy that I am playing here and not in Russia this year. I am very excited about Canada and the CHL."
we've spoken to a few Russian players before but personally I think Kabanov, even at 17 years of age, has had the best grasp on the English language. His first appearance on TPS came in October of 2008 during the World Junior A Challenge in Camrose and he could communicate well then. But here, a little over a year later, there was an obvious improvement and it's something Kabanov has taken very seriously.

I asked Kabanov to clarify how and when he had hurt the wrist.
"I hurt my wrist in the KHL like 8 months ago but we didn't find out until I went for X-Rays... my wrist had become sore during games and I couldn't shoot the puck so I said to our team doctors that my wrist felt bad. He said we should take an X-ray and in the X-ray we could really see that the bone was broken."
It seems a shame that he's missed all this time in the QMJHL recovering from surgery to fix and injury that he sustained the season before in the KHL. It makes a person wonder why his KHL team didn't take care of it for him. I asked Kabanov if he wishes that he could go back in time and have the surgery during the period when he was waited for clearance to play in the QMJHL.
"Yeah, of course! When I wasn't playing my wrist was OK and I didn't have any problems in the summer with my wrist. Then we found out that if I didn't have surgery I might be finished playing hockey forever."
During the past two months of inactivity, Kabanov has missed both the Subway Super Series (CHL vs Russia) and the World Junior Championship. I already knew the answer but wanted to hear it from him so I asked: Would he have played in those events for Russia and for coach Vladimir Plyuschev if he could have?
"No. He loves his country, he loves Russia but for him I am like an enemy. He doesn't love me at all right now because he thinks that I ran away from Russia. I've tried to explain to him that I'm not running away from Russia, I'm just running from hockey in Russia. He can't understand this and for sure I can't play [in Moncton] and for the Russian national team."
In December we spoke with Stanislav Galiev, another Russian playing in the QMJHL. Despite a very productive season in Saint John, Galiev was not named to the Russian WJC team either and we asked him if he was surprised by that.
"I never talked to the coach [Plyuschev] of the U20 team. I know that he doesn't like younger guys," said Galiev and then I asked him if he and Kabanov have discussed the situation that they share, both being black-balled for leaving Russia for the CHL. "[Kabanov] told me that the coach said he wouldn't take him because he's young and maybe that's the same thing with me."
Kabanov has had Plyuschev for a coach in the past which has been both difficult but also beneficial and the player paid his respects for the good things he's gotten from their time together.
"For me he's a good person because he took me on the national team (World Junior A Challenge) and he put me on the first line," Kabanov started, "But he is 100% an old school coach and he loves guys like [Ilya] Kovalchuk, [Evgeny] Malkin, [Alexander] Ovechkin... he wants on his team only guys with that style of game to be leaders on the team. Sometimes he can't understand that if he would not [yell] at his players... it's better to try and explain something to his players than to [yell] at them and punish them, like always to call them bad words. It's better to help them to understand the game than to [yell] but I don't know... he's an old school coach. I give him my respect though because he took me on the national team and that was good for me and my career, he put me on the first line so I'm really respectful of him."
In his draft year, Nikita Filatov was a Russian player who made it very clear that his goal was to play in North America and that he didn't feel the KHL was a good option for him. Two years later Filatov is playing in the KHL after leaving the Columbus Blue Jackets. I asked Kabanov, who has also made in very clear that it's here that he wants to stay, if he thinks the situation with Filatov might have a negative affect on the stock of all the top Russians available in the 2010 NHL draft. "I don't have any contracts with Russia. I am already playing in North America and I know for sure that in Russia, nobody likes me - they make a lot of bad websites about me, there have been a lot of interviews about me that I'm bad, that I'm not Russian now and that I'm Canadian or a United States guy. Vladimir Plyuschev has called me a "Sweet Boy", he usually calls American guys "Sweet Guys", so now he says that I have become a "Sweet Guy."
"You know, I think [Filatov] left his team because of the coach," said Kabanov, "I don't know the situation for sure but I know Nikita and he told me that the coach doesn't let him play, they don't speak the same language so it was hard. He's a very talented guy, he's like my same humor and I want to be the same level as him but maybe he just didn't find the same language as his coach. Hitchcock wants him to cheque hard and play hard and I just don't think they are speaking the same language. I think that is a problem for one player though and not for all Russians."
I then simply asked Kabanov why playing in Canada this year was so important to him.
"Because in russian, in the KHL, the club that bought me they offered me a contract for like 8 years. For sure if I was to stay in Russia for 8 years I would never play in the NHL and that was my dream since I was a young age. I want to play in the NHL, that's my ability and I want to be a big star like Ovechkin or Kovalchuk. If I was to stay in Russia... there are no stupid clubs in the NHL that will [draft] a hockey player that won't be able to play for them for 8 years."
We also touched on the fact that NHL Central Scouting dropped him in their rankings and whether or not he really cares too much about that. From there I ended the interview asking him if he felt that Moncton, with the trade deadline behind them, could contend for the QMJHL title and get to the Memorial Cup. "YES. For sure, yes and I will try and help the team. They have made trades for some good players and now our team is really great and we will try to win the Memorial Cup."

A couple notes I want to make just to clarify in regards to language. Above, where he is talking about Plyuschev's treatment of players , I inserted the word "yell" but what Kabanov said was "cry". I think 'yell' is what he meant and not that the coach was sobbing angrily at his team.

Also, I'm just guessing but I think "Sweet Boy" or "Sweet Guy" might be akin to "Wussy" but that might just be how I interpreted it. Someone can tell me if you know for sure.

I'm now on the record in predicting that Kabanov will be the first Russian player chosen at the 2010 NHL Draft. I think when he comes back from injury he'll be a catalyst that takes Moncton to the QMJHL finals. Will the Wildcats win? They were my pre-season prediction so I guess I'll stick to my guns and say YES.


Anonymous said...

He was pretty candid about the KHL and his old coach. Wow. That was fascinating

Guy Flaming said...

Thanks and yes, I agree. As media, we like the guys that speak their mind and I give him a lot of credit for being that way at a young age.

Traktor said...

Nice stuff Guy.