Kabanov’s Trip to Stockton a Message to Shape Up

Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:

Prior to Tuesday night’s game, the Islanders announced that they had re-assigned Sound Tigers forward Kirill Kabanov to the team’s new ECHL affiliate, the Stockton Thunder.

For Kabanov, the trip across country to a lower rung of the minor leagues isn’t about getting more playing time or honing his skills for the most part. It’s a message to shape up for a player with promising talent that has to get some things in order.

Michael Fornabaio, the Sound Tigers beat writer for the CT Post, noted that Kabanov missed practice that morning for personal reasons and has been late to practice on multiple occasions:

They’re framing it as a hockey decision; get him more minutes, work on his game in both ends, and so forth, sing along, and playing on the third line, he probably could use some more time. His “personal-reasons” absence this morning suggested more, and a source said Kabanov was late for a meeting and it wasn’t the first time.

A Point Blank source seconded Fornabaio’s report that the move to Stockon was for disciplinary reasons.

Kabanov was originally a third round pick in 2010, touted to have first round talent. His draft stock slipped as he became well known for off-ice issues but the line dividing what were real issues and which ones were fabricated is still blurry.

What we do know is that his complicated history starts in Russia, his home country, as he snubbed the KHL at its formation and bolted for North America after tense contract negotiations. He was selected by Moncton of the CHL but fell out of favor there in the spring of 2010, when the junior team scratched him for the entirety of the Memorial Cup Playoffs. That same April, he was also kicked off the Russian junior team for being an ‘individual player’, according to the team.

At that point, the Islanders selected him in the June draft after he fell to round three but things we’re the smoothest. He showed up late twice during training camp in the fall of 2010 and the team returned him to Moncton.

Of course, Moncton didn’t want him back and his rights were traded to Blainville-Boisbriand. After potentially heading to Sweden to play because he couldn’t with Blainville who had too many foreign players (there are roster limits on that sort of thing), he ended up with Shawinigan. There, lo and behold, he won the Memorial Cup with them in 2011. The Islanders would sign him to an ELC that summer and he spent all of last year with Bridgeport, hampered by injury.

Now Kabanov’s career has taken yet another turn and he’s been shipped off to hockey purgatory in California, a long way from Bridgeport and even further from the NHL.

It’s probably not an ultimatum from the Islanders, as he does still have another year on his entry level deal. But it’s certainly a message sent and something that should be a wake up call.

Kabanov had been playing on the third line in Bridgeport after being buried during the preseason. The only training camp action he saw was during the two split squad games, but he still managed to make a highlight reel play.

It’s surprising how far down the depth chart Kabanov fell. With Brock Nelson in the NHL, in theory he should be Bridgeport’s third best forward behind Anders Lee and Ryan Strome. However, he fell to third among the right wings, behind the undrafted Joey Diamond and 27-year old fighter Chris Bruton.

Whether his fall down the lineup was it’s own brand of discipline or not, it’s clear that between the lineup and training camp, Kabanov fell out of favor with the coaches. Now, he’s got to earn it all back and do it from across the continent.

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