Sat Jun 26 03:09pm EDT
LOS ANGELES -- Moments after the New York Islanders ended his lengthy wait in the 2010 NHL Draft, Russian Kirill Kabanov was put on trial about his reputation.
The Islanders selected him at No. 65 overall, after being ranked at No. 15 at the midterm and No. 31 in North America at the final ranking. His behavior and his controversies poisoned the well, but the Islanders felt the talented left winger was worth the risk.
What would Kabanov say to the Islanders fans who view this as a gamble?
"A risky pick? I can promise you ... is there a video camera?" he said, motioning to a tape recorder. After locating a television camera in front of him, Kabonov spoke directly his new fan base.
"I can promise you that I will not leave New York. I can give to all the fans my passport. So they don't think I'll go back to Russia."
Kabanov's a charmer. Funny, honest, willing to acknowledge some faults while attempting to explain away others. And he had a lot of explaining to do as he wore an Islanders jersey over a shirt and tie.
Kabanov's plummet from top draft prospect to third-round gamble has been well-documented. He fell out of favor with both Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior League and the Russian National Team. He made several contradictory and controversial comments, about his citizenship and his desire to play in a warm-weather NHL city. Then there was the scuttlebutt about his daddy issues and egregious tattoos (seriously).
Kabonov ticked off the accusations. "That I'm drinking. That I'm rock and roller. That I have all my body in tattoos. That's not true, just a couple ones," he said. "Somebody in Russia sometimes I sit in a jail for two years."
He said much of it is a misunderstanding, not only of his actions but in the reporting of those actions.
"I don't know, everybody's reading papers, newspaper and sometimes it's what I said, sometimes it's not what I said. Especially in Russia," he said.
"Everybody was talking about me having a bad reputation. But you know what? Hockey is a sport, and sometimes you're going up and sometimes you're going down. When a plane hits turbulation (sic), the plane isn't falling down."
He said his drop in the first round didn't bother him.
"I don't really care what's wrong. I just wanted to show I was a first-round player, and play in the NHL as soon as I can. I wasn't disappointed when I was sitting the stands. I was really happy when I heard my name from the Islanders."
He likes New York, having spent time there last summer and with his model girlfriend currently working there. He's also intrigued by the Islanders, and the young talent they're assembling.
"When one guy is better than one guy. ... Competition between the guys, it makes the guys feel like, more stronger, more harder. I think Islanders will be a great team in a couple years," he said, adding that he's unsure if he'll play with the Islanders next season.
Along with focusing on hockey, Kabanov knows he must also focus on his bad PR. After an embarrassing split with this agent, he now has representation with Bobby Orr Agency. His injured wrist is now "100 percent." When asked if he needs to be more disciplined, he answers, "Yes. I need to be. I will and I promise. 100 percent."
With the 65th selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders have given Kabanov a chance to re-write his biography.
"I seem [like] a pretty good kid. I don't know, sometimes somebody thinks I'm bad like a devil; but I'm pretty good, like an angel," he said.