By Zach Schonbrun
Standing alone on the floor of the Nassau Coliseum at the Islanders Draft Party on Friday night, Kirill Kabanov was another face in a large crowd of Islanders fans. One woman came up to him and asked for an autograph for her young son; another asked who he was.
Kabanov seemed content just soaking in the surroundings of Friday’s festivities — the Islanders’ third-round pick (65th overall) in last year’s draft, Kabanov remains on the outside looking in at the franchise he hopes to join soon.
He spent the last year with the Lewiston Maniacs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and believes he benefited from a season there.
“I think I’ve grown up and matured,” the 18-year-old Russia native said. “It’s all about me — nobody can help me until I help myself. I think I became more professional. I started to care about hockey more than anything else. I will try to do everything I can to make the team here.”
Considered a dynamic offensive talent, the 6-foot-3, 173-pound right wing has been handicapped by injury and mentality. Kabanov was kicked off the Russian Under-18 team before the 2010 World Championship for what the coach termed disciplinary reasons.
“I became much more of a team player,” said Kabanov, who finished second on the Maineiacs with 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists) last season. “I worked on my back-checking, blocked shots. I improved a lot this year.”
Kabanov said he is living in Oyster Bay and training with strength coach Jesse Demerrs. He will participate in the team’s prospect camp next month and continue to work out in hopes of earning a roster spot. Kabanov has also been getting used to being on Long Island, and so has his mother, whom he is living with here.
“My mom loves it here,” Kabanov said with a laugh. “She loves the climate.”