Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pens Draft Preview: Risky Ray?

Just to note: This is a guest post by Pat Canella
With the Stanley Cup Finals all wrapped up and the Windy City rocking out and celebrating, it's just about time for all of the other 29 NHL teams to hunker down and prepare for the rigors and surprises of the offseason. Since this is predominantly a Pittsburgh blog, I can probably say that our beloved Pens have some offseason work to do. Just to start, they need to focus on re-signing various defensive players (most notably, Gonchar, Eaton, and newcomer Jordan Leopold) and showing the door to almost all of their soon-to-be free agent wingers (Poni, Fedotenko and Bill Guerin).
This Guy = No Heart.

There's bound to be some debate over who to sign and who to dump, but one thing is for sure -- the Penguins are a depth team and I'm positive that Mr. Shero will be holding onto that first round pick (#20 overall). But the question arises, who to pick? What position to pick? These questions are very much narrowed by the fact that Pittsburgh is "stuck" with only a few options for the draft. Last year, they did a tremendous job of drafting defensive prospect Simon Despres, a stay-at-home kind of guy, who will hopefully be a mainstay on the Pens' blue line soon enough. It's important to note that even though Despres was 30th overall, he was ranked #8 out of all North American players.

So who will be drafted 20th overall this year? If Ray decides to hold onto this pick (which, I am assuming he will), then here are a few options that can be had. Let's look at the one everyone wants; Kirill Kabanov!

Name: Kirill Kabanov
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 173
Shoots: Right
Final Rank: 31st (2nd round)

Though the final ranking isn't too pretty, there's reasons behind it, according to Central Scouting and other prospect organizations. Back in 2009, this guy was touted as "the next Ovechkin," and as much as I dislike Ovi, I'd love to have a clone of him on the Pens. This is not to say Kabanov is a clone however; his off ice issues (though debated) are the main reason he has fallen a bit further from the tree than most would like. He bolted from Russia to North America to play for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL (we all understand how finicky that can be, see: Malkin, Evgeni). That's all fine and dandy, but he also went back to Russia to play for the U-18 national tournament, but hey, who can fault you for wanting to play for the motherland? Unfortunately, for every party involved, he was cut from the U-18 team due to his off-ice antics (allegedly, anyway). From his interviews, he seems to be more reserved than Ovechkin is, but he does have that rebellious spark in him as well it seems.

In addition to the Russia debacle, he also broke his wrist last season, so he was out for another significant length of time. Still, in the mere 22 games he played for Moncton in 2009-2010, he racked up 23 points in 22 games (10G, 13A). Not bad, but not exactly great either. It's hard to tell why people love him in my opinion, seems like a lot of hype for someone who has hardly proven himself. His coach says he has tremendous hockey sense, which is very nice, but he has a long way to go. Also, from what I can tell, he needs to fill out a bit more, he looks so skinny out on the ice!

Note: This pick is a risk that Shero may not be willing to take, but it seems that Kabanov is high risk/high reward to most. Though I am almost 100% sure Kabanov is not NHL-ready, he will still need some time in the minors to mature, unless of course, he has a tremendous camp (even then, it's not set in stone).

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