Can the Senators afford to risk drafting Kirill Kabanov?

I'm not clear on where the "Kabanov is a headcase" rumors are coming from. Photo via an.capacadie.com

By now, you've seen Silver Seven's pick in the SBN mock draft.  The decision process was brutal, like the gang fight in Anchorman.  What we all agreed upon was that the Senators had to draft offense.  What was not agreed upon was whom.

As you may have surmised from this article's title, I was the voice of dissent.  While I would be thrilled to get a playmaker like Alexander Burmistrov, I believed Ottawa had a much more pressing need at wing.  Specifically, right wing.

Quick, who would start next to Jason Spezza at RW if Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev were out at the same time? 

Well, next on the depth chart is Chris Neil, but I think everyone knows that's not a realistic possibility.  The true solution would be youngster Bobby Butler or someone like Milan Michalek or Peter Regin playing out of position, or the call up of someone like Ryan Keller, or our rumored newest player Roman Wick.  These are all unpleasant scenarios.

The hard truth is that Ottawa's depth at right wing is frighteningly non-existent.  The team's top two right wings are closer to 40 than 30, and Alex Kovalev will almost certainly not return after the 2010-11 season.  Daniel Alfredsson will be retiring within the next few years.  The need at right wing is not only glaring, it's immediate.  There's not much help from the UFA market, even if the team had money to spend.  Of Puck Daddy's top ten list, only Marek Svatos feels like a potential solution, and he's an enigma all by himself. 

Luckily, there's a top five talent who will be there when Ottawa picks at the 16th spot.

Kirill Kabanov is a right wing who is listed somewhere between 6'2" and 6'4" (reports vary) and in the 170 weight range.  Here's ISS scout Chris Mooring talking about Kabanov:

"He's a well-rounded offensively-skilled player. One of the better stickhandlers and one of the better skaters in the draft. His offensive upside is high, as far as the next level goes. He's a first line kind of player skill wise. If you look at pure offensive players, he's one of the best in the draft."

How, you may ask, is a player that talented going to fall to Ottawa? 

Well, he's got so many off-ice red flags that rumors are flying he won't be drafted until the second round.  To wit:

  • His agent fired him. He supposedly has gone through four agents already.
  • He was kicked off the Russian Under-18 team after abandoning his QMJHL team because he didn't want to play on the third line after returning from wrist surgery.  The coach of the Russian team, Mikhail Vasiliev, on why:

    "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."

  • Fanhouse's Christopher Botta says that his QMJHL teammates wanted him gone and that his father is the cause of most of his drama.
  • Mooring on his flaws:

"He's not a defensive-minded player at all, he's all offensive, one-dimensional, very one-dimensional, I don't even know if I saw him once come back past the other blue line.  He's not someone that I think will be able to step into the league next year, he'll have to mature both physically and defensively before that.  I think Moncton [his QMJHL team] would have been a good spot to help him out with the defensive side of things. I think the coaching staff would have really helped his development, but now, he's pretty much close to a year behind in his development. So you figure that he wasn't going to be in the league next year because of the issues he had, is he now two or three years away from coming into the league? Probably."

Yikes.

But it's not all bad.  Christopher Ralph at The Hockey Writers points out that Kabanov had an outstanding showing at the combine and cites two sources that describe him as both down to earth and sincere in his combine interview.

Consistently compared with Ilya Kovalchuk in terms of skill, it seems the one thing scouts agree upon is that Kabanov has all the talent a team could ask for in a prospect.  At the very least, he can keep a ball away from a dog:


Current rumors say that he will be lucky to be drafted in the top 40 players.  Ottawa has no second round picks, due to trades for Matt Cullen and Andy Sutton last year, and their highest second round pick (46th overall) would have probably been too late to get him.  They've got one shot at him, and that's with the 16th pick.

It's a gamble, I know.  There are a lot of questions out there.  But if you believe that Kabanov is just someone who needs the edges rounded, why wouldn't you believe that Ottawa is the organization to do it?  Look no further than Erik Karlsson's development last year -- Binghamton coach Don Nachbaur gave us a defenseman who had regained his confidence.  By the end of the year, Cory Clouston had no problems putting him out in the final minute of games to defend a one-goal lead.  If Kabanov is not a headcase, this organization will have a gem with just a few years of polishing.  That's really tempting.  It's also a big if.

Kabanov is not the end-all, be-all of this draft.  There are many players with great potential, but Ottawa is not in a draft position to land Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin.  They don't have the ammunition to move up for a player like Brett Connolly, Mikael Granlund, Vladimir Tarasenko, or even Emerson Etem.  If one of those players is there and the Senators choose them over Kabanov, there won't be any complaints from me -- but that probably won't be the case.  By the time Ottawa is on the clock this Friday, Kirill Kabanov will easily be the most talented player left on the board.  Does that talent justify the gamble of drafting him?  I believe the answer is yes.

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