ONE MORE YEAR FOR PETROV IN RUSSIAKabanov moves, Gregoire and Kessel are free

It’s going to be another year, and likely a few years after that, when we learn whether the Islanders’ no-risk/high reward drafting of a pair of unique young men from Russia named Kirill will ever pay off at the NHL level.

A source close to Petrov told Point Blank that the big right wing will fulfill the fourth and final year of his Kontinental Hockey League contract in 2011-12. In an added twist, apparently in Russia a player can be traded for himself. A year after Petrov was dealt to Yugra – a good move for the sake of his development – he has been “loaned” back to his original team, Kazan Ak Bars.

Petrov has legitimate reasons for wanting to stay home at least one more year. According to the source, Petrov’s mother is seriously ill and recently underwent her second surgery in the last year. As of this date, Petrov is not only committed to playing in Kazan this season, but he is very questionable for the Islanders’ prospect camp next month. He had a very positive couple of weeks on Long Island last summer.

After a strong start with Yugra and with increased icetime after two years spent mainly on the bench with Ak Bars, the 6-3, 205-pound right wing tailed off. He finished the season with 8 goals and 11 assists for 19 points in 48 games. At Kazan, one of the most competitive teams in the league and a franchise that tends to lean on experienced players, Petrov could be in a battle just to claim a spot on the third line.

The Islanders had some idea of what they were getting into, which is why they had no problem using one of their three third round picks in the 2008 NHL draft to take a flyer on the talented Petrov. Scouts from other NHL teams told Point Blank that the information prior to draft weekend on Petrov’s commitment to the KHL was very sketchy. Some were told he had a one-year deal with Kazan. Others were informed that he was under contract for three years or possibly more. It wasn’t until after the draft that it was confirmed that Kazan had him locked up for four seasons. Considering the low price, the Islanders have no regrets.

Although the roadblocks in his development, in part, caused Petrov to slip to No. 8 in our recent Scouts’ Poll of the top Islanders’ prospects, he is just 21 years old. If the Islanders are able to bring him to New York in 2012 and begin his North American development, they still could have a quality big forward to help close out the slow and steady rebuild.

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While Petrov’s stock slipped, Kirill Kabanov’s rose with a head-turning performance in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs with the Lewiston Maineiacs. Some of the credit for Kabanov’s maturity over the last year, since his selection in the third round of the 2010 draft, was given to Lewiston president Bill Schurmann (who worked with the player in Moncton) and head coach Jean-Francois Houle.

Alas, while the lovably high-maintenance Kabanov may still be part-maniac, he is no longer a Maineiac. The Lewiston franchise went bust earlier this week, and all of its players were made available in a QMJHL dispersal draft today. Kabanov is now a member of the Montreal Juniors, who drafted him off Lewiston’s 35-player eligibility list. Montreal has a good team. As for the city…well, it brings to mind Nino Niederreiter’s favorite word: it’s fantastic. Kabanov’s going to love it there.

Besides dispatching Doug Weight and Eric Cairns to Montreal on occasion, the Islanders might want to convince the Juniors to bring on Houle as a coach.

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In other prospect news, collegiate draft picks/dropouts Jason Gregoire and Blake Kessel have officially Wheeler-ed their way into free agency. The Islanders could still sign the players, but they are now free to speak with every NHL team. Gregoire and Kessel rated “honorable mentions” outside of the top ten in our recent Scouts’ Poll of prospects. They are, without question, solid NHL prospects and will receive offers from other clubs.