October 05, 2010
Kirill Kabanov says the game of hockey is a lot like the dating game.
At least, that’s how he’s looking at his second Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season in the wake of a series of off-ice issues, which included being reprimanded for showing up late to New York Islanders camp twice.
“What happened in the past doesn’t have a place in the future,” Kabanov says. “If you would break up with your girlfriend, you probably start thinking about your next life. I broke up with my girlfriend, I’m thinking about the future, I don’t think about her anymore. ... It’s a part from my past life, so it stays (behind me). Girlfriend, hockey, you’re just supposed to look to the future, see what you can do to change bad opinions of the other guys thinking about you.”
The 18-year-old Moncton Wildcats forward was responding to a question about his outlook on this season after missing most of last year due to injury, leaving the eventual President’s Cup champions during the playoffs, then being cut by the Russian under-18 team -- for allegedly eating the coach's peanuts.
Once touted as a potential top pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft, he slipped to the third round, where the New York Islanders took a chance on his talent (23 points in 22 games). Kabanov made headlines again when he was punished for being late at Islanders training camp on two occasions.
Kabanov is an affable young man whose right hand delivers a crushing handshake despite being surgically repaired. On hand for Moncton’s weekend games as he awaits international paperwork to clear him to play, he sat with teammates, signed autographs and posed for photos with fans. The Islanders incident was the one thing Kabanov refused to comment on in an interview, but he did talk about what he needs to work on to become a pro.
“I’m supposed to become like more (mature), and to grow up a little bit to be part of an NHL team. I’m supposed to organize all my things and probably work on my game a little bit, backchecking and defensive play,” says Kabanov, who expects to make his season debut against the rival Saint John Sea Dogs Friday.
“You can’t change your past whenever you want to,” he adds. “Yeah it happened, but I’m looking just to this season, to improve myself, to work hard. ... First of all, I just want to show myself that I’m a good person.”
Wildcats coach Danny Flynn said he has had “two solid meetings” with the player since his return from Islanders training camp last week, noting that one was at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
“I just wanted to see how he was doing, talk about his NHL experience, talk about the expectations of the kids we have here,” Flynn says. “We talked for over three hours between the two meetings. We talked about lots of things.”
As for Kabanov’s future, Flynn had this to say: “We talked about the situation. I think he realizes that he’s made some mistakes along the way. He’s not the first or the last. ... If he wants to become an NHL player, this is the No. 1 development league outside the National Hockey League for players his age. I think he realizes that and wants to just get on with the business of working to become an NHL player.”