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Top prospect Kabanov returns to Russia

by Adam Kimelman
Kirill Kabanov, the top-rated QMJHL forward in NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters, has left the Moncton Wildcats to return to his native Russia.

The move was announced by the team as one that fulfills Kabanov's wish to play for Russia at the World Under-18 Championship in Belarus, April 13-23, but could have more to do with playing time.

Kabanov had been playing left wing on the third line, which might not have sat well with a player so used to receiving first-line minutes. Kabanov also had been benched for the final two periods of Moncton's playoff opener against Cape Breton last Friday, and was a healthy scratch for Game 2 on Saturday.

"(Kabanov) is used to being a go-to guy," Moncton coach Danny Flynn told the Times and Transcript. "The fact that other guys were playing ahead of him was an adjustment that he had to learn to make. He was restless playing on the third line."

Kabanov, who has immense talent, has been a boondoggle all season for the Wildcats. Moncton made the 6-foot-2, 173-pounder the seventh pick in this past summer's CHL Import Draft, but had to win a lengthy arbitration case with the IIHF to obtain Kabanov's rights. That delayed his season debut by a month.

"(Kabanov) is used to being a go-to guy. The fact that other guys were playing ahead of him was an adjustment that he had to learn to make. He was restless playing on the third line."
-- Moncton coach Danny Flynn

When he did play, he was exceptional, totaling 5 goals and 14 points in his first 11 games. But then he aggravated a wrist injury originally suffered in Russia and subsequent surgery sidelined him for three months. He returned with a flourish and finished with 10 goals and 23 points in 22 games.

Moncton has been aiming all season for a league title and a spot in the Memorial Cup tournament, but now they'll have to do it without one of their most highly-skilled forwards.

"He's missed so much time, he's coming back from a significant injury and he needs to play a lot in key situations," said Flynn. "He needs to be on the top two lines and be on the power play to maximize his potential. We just felt he wasn't going to get that in this series against Cape Breton given that both teams are going with older experienced lineups. We thought the opportunity for him to play in the World Under-18s and get a lot of ice time would help in his development."

Whatever the motive behind the move, the decision likely will have an impact on where Kabanov gets picked in the June 25-26 draft. He was No. 15 in Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American prospects, but it's almost certain he would have been ranked higher had he been healthy all season.

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