|Terry Wilson CHL Images|
There is no doubt that Shawinigan is a worthy champion because they traveled one of the toughest roads to win this championship coming all the way from the tiebreaker game to this overtime win in the finals.
They did it in style, defeating first the WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings, then their own bitter rivals, the QMJHL Champions the Saint John Sea Dogs before knocking off the OHL Champions the London Knights.
But for me seeing Kabanov play, perhaps one of the biggest games in his life made me happy for him. Right before the Memorial Cup began somebody started a rumor that said Kabanov was going to play in the KHL.
It was another false rumor, but so many people are so quick not to forget past behavior and automatically thought the worst of Kabanov. Several Islander "fans" were quick to trash Kabanov before even giving him a chance to deny the rumors.
Of course, when Kabanov did denied those rumors those same "fans" were nowhere to be found to apologize. Kabanov himself has repeatedly said that he wants to play for the New York Islanders and in front of the Islander fans but sadly his word isn't good enough for some people.
For me, he doesn't need to give me his word because all I had to do was look at his face and the several stitches that Kabanov had to have put in during this tournament spoke volumes about his determination. Seriously Kabanov's face looked more like a train map with more stitches being added almost daily.
The supposed prima donna was out there, blocking shots playing defense and doing all the things that Russian prospects are not supposed to do (according to their critics of course). And in the biggest game of his young career Kabanov played his butt off against one of the best defensive teams at the junior hockey level.
Kabanov lost out on a goal when a blast of a shot actually hit teammate in front and deflected in. Kabanov was credited only with two shots in the game but he kept bringing the game to the Knights.
I so loved the way Kabanov attacked the Knight's net especially in the third when he forced London's Tommy Hughes to pull him down or Kabanov was in on a breakaway. All night long it was Kabanov going at the London defense not around it with cutesy moves but straightforward north-south hockey.
On the game-winner scored by his fellow Russian Anton Zlobin, not sure how Kabanov wasn't given credit for an assist as he started the play that set off the wildest and happiest celebrations in Shawinigan history.
If you're an Islander fan and you had a chance to watch this game then take a look at a player who's going to be a force to be reckoned with. Make no mistake Kirill Kabanov wants to be a New York Islander and don't be surprised if he isn't on Long Island sooner rather than later.
Our friend Neate Sager of Buzzing The Net awarded Kabanov Yahoo's third star of the day:
Kirill Kabanov was officially credited with two assists in this game, but it could have been far more. The slick-stickhandling Russian was a force all game, drawing a late hooking penalty on Tommy Hughes (Shawinigan failed to capitalize) and dazzled the crowd on multiple occasions on creativity with the puck.
His first assist was impressive as well. Controlling the puck in the offensive zone on the half boards, Kabanov ripped it on net. The puck looked like it took two deflections (one of which was off goal-scorer Anton Zlobin) and in a game when most of those would have been blocked, the puck ricocheted in, thanks to all the force from the initial shot. On the second, he moved the puck behind the net to Bournival, and we all know the rest.
Well here is something that Kabanov's critics will never be able to take away from him and that is Kirill Kabanov helped his Shawinigan Cataractes when their first Memorial Cup in franchise history.
That makes him a winner and in my book gives him some redemption for his past.
If you're a New York Ranger fan, then you have every right to be jumping for joy because this was a year where your prospects blew the roof off with their play. Three different players helped their team win championships, something not seen from Ranger prospects in decades.
And New York Islander fans while it wasn't as deep as the Ranger prospects there were several standouts who showed that the Islander future is also about to get much brighter.
I don't do this by myself as I get a lot of help from the various sports information guys at the colleges, the media relations people from the Canadian junior teams, from you guys who attend games and fill in the blanks so your fellow fans get as much information as possible.
I got to make so many new friends this year which allowed me to be able to still give you guys as much information as I could. I can never thank several of you for stepping up when my health stopped me dead in my tracks.
So next up is going to be a position by position breakdown for both teams based on prospects that we covered not those playing in the minor leagues and with one exception, Europe.
With the help of some friends. I hope to be able to get you guys as much information regarding possible draft picks coming out of the 2012 NHL draft.
But most of all, I have to thank you guys for your encouragement and your outstanding support because now prospect coverage is no longer something to talk about in the off-season. Thanks to you prospect coverage is a year-round thing and will continue to be so.
In honor of those who have served and for those who did not come home
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