LOS ANGELES -- One of the players to watch during the 2010 Entry Draft weekend was Russian-born forward Kirill Kabanov.
A dynamic offensive talent, his skill level dictated him being a first-round selection. However, off-ice issues made his draft status one of the biggest question marks of the annual selection show.
With the 65th pick of the draft, the New York Islanders answered the question of which team would have the fortitude to select Kabanov.
The 6-foot-2, 173-pound right wing had 23 points in 22 games. He missed time early in the season fighting to get out of his KHL contract to get to the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats. He missed three months following wrist surgery, and then torpedoed his season by bolting Moncton three games into the postseason.
His coach, Danny Flynn, said Kabanov was upset over playing time, and teammates reportedly weren't happy with his attitude. Kabanov said he wanted to return home to Moscow to train for Russia's team at the World Under-18 Championship, but he was booted from the squad for what the coach termed disciplinary reasons.
So where most teams saw risk, by the third round, the Islanders saw opportunity.
"Because of the high skill," Mario Saraceno, the Islanders' Quebec scout who advocated for Kabanov at the draft table, told NHL.com. "We were looking this year for top-six skill level with some size. We addressed those issues early on with our two first-round picks, and we continued in the third. That was what we were looking for. Kirill has a lot of skill and a lot of upside."
Kabanov was vocal in admitting his mistake in leaving Moncton, and said he willingly would tear up his Russian passport. However, teams obviously remained leery, which is why he lasted until the fifth pick of the third round.
Kabanov, however, didn't care how long he had to sit in the Staples Center stands.
"I don't really care what round, I just want to show I'll be ready to play in the NHL," Kabanov told NHL.com. "I don't care what round, I just want to show that I'm a first-round player and I want to do my best to show my game. Doesn't really matter that I was sitting in the stands; I just was waiting for the team who picked me because I was more interested than upset."
The next interesting thing surrounding Kabanov is where he plays next season. The most likely option is a return to Moncton, which Kabanov said he would be fine with.
"It depends what the Islanders want for me," he said. "I will do whatever they want. Of course that includes Moncton. I already told other media I'm going to go to Moncton if Islanders want me to go there. If they want me to stay in Moncton, I'll stay in Moncton. If they want me to change clubs, I will. But if you're asking me my opinion, I really like Moncton. Great city, wonderful fans, the coaching staff is pretty good, they were really good guys on the team. I would love to go back to Moncton."
Before that, he'll go to Long Island for the club's rookie camp, where he'll begin receiving his indoctrination into what will be expected of him moving forward.
"He's coming into an organization that's willing to give second chances," Islanders GM Garth Snow said. "He has reasons why he probably dropped to where he did. We expect all our prospects, our players, to conform to the team concept. This is Kirill's chance to do that."
Saraceno, for one, doesn't expect a repeat off-ice performance from Kabanov.
"None of these players drafted today are perfect," Saraceno said. "We love his upside. We think he's going to fill out, we think he's going to be a big boy. We just went with that.
"I don't think he's a bad kid. He just needs a lot of guidance."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com