The Leafs are back at it again, scouting in Europe to add low-risk, high-reward players to their ranks. Last offseason it was Teemu Kivihalme and Ilya Mikheyev. Next year it looks to be impressive forward Alexander Barabanov.
SportsNet‘s Elliot Friedman and Chris Johnston have reported that the Leafs are favorites to sign pending KHL free-agent offensive dynamo Alexander Barabanov next summer when his contract expires.
The Russian right-winger is being tipped to the Maple Leafs after Toronto’s Senior Director of Player Evaluation, Jim Paliafito, aka the Russian Whisperer, has been linked with scouting the talented playmaker and goalscorer.
His potential signing follows a growing tradition of the Leafs spending time scouting Russian players in the KHL who aren’t teenage prospects. In recent history, this includes Nikita Zaitsev, Igor Ozhiganov, and Ilya Mikheyev, plus Finnish defenseman Teemu Kivihalme and Swedish forward Par Lindholm. It’s a solid supplementary plan to add out-sourced talent while not having to lose players or draft capital along the way.
As for the stats, Barabanov ranked 18th in KHL scoring last season with St. Petersburg KSA. Barabanov racked up 46 points in 58 games last season, with 17 goals and 29 assists for the campaign. When looking at his highlight reels from last season there is one player on the current roster that he reminds me of – Trevor Moore.
Like Moore, Barabanov is a small skilled forward who uses his legs to open offensive opportunities and crashes the net to capitalize on ugly goals while reserving his ability to shoot the puck for open lanes in the slot. He’s tenacious, he’s scrappy, he’s small, and he’s skilled. He sounds like a Maple Leafs already, doesn’t he?
With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Barabanov is looking for a new home and all signs point to the NHL as his landing spot. Friedman and Johnston connected the dots to the Leafs and believe the team sits atop his desired destination list. Being 25, as well, is also a bonus as the player wouldn’t need to be developed and marinated in the minors. No, if Barabanov signs it’ll be to play in the NHL and will likely force out a current Maple Leaf in the process.