SKA (KHL) forward Alexander Barabanov today officially signed a one-year contract with Toronto. The decision was made a long time ago, so the intrigue surrounding the choice between the Maple Leafs, Arizona and another team seemed illusory.
Alexander in June will turn 26 years old, he has long been ready to try playing at the best league in the world, and with a right combination of circumstances, he can play in it. The courage of Barabanov himself and his American agent Dan Milstein should be given credit.
In order to gain a foothold in the NHL, they have chosen the most challenging option. Firstly, Toronto is the hockey capital of the world, where even a body movement of a player plying between the farm club and the primary team is being judged. For a modest, laconic and sometimes closed Barabanov, this will be a test. He must get used to such pressure. Secondly, he goes to a team where there are no problems with wingers. The main problem in this regard for the club is to agree on a new contract with Ilya Mikheev. Thirdly, the Petersburger, unlike the former forward of Avangard (KHL), is not leaving at his peak. This season for Barabanov, for several reasons, including a fracture of the hand, was not very successful. Almost a month and a half, missed due to this injury during the regular season, affecting both his game state and performance. As previous experience shows, going to North America in best playing conditions is essential, from psychological certainty.
Barabanov has strengths – he does not go to Toronto for tourist purposes. He is universal, although he feels more comfortable on the left-wing. Once in the youth team, head coach Mikhail Varnakov even tried to put Barabanov in the centre, which also speaks about the merits of a hockey player. Alexander always has a cool and manoeuvrable skating, reads the game well.
For starters, Barabanov will have to compete in the fourth link with characters such as Engvall, Malgin, and Petan. In terms of its potential with respect to the NHL, it is closer to the “top-9” forward than to the “top-6”. He lacks the skill and size to claim in Toronto a significant role both immediately and in the long run. The same “Arizona” on paper Barabanov would have come up much better and could quickly become the favourite of head coach Rick Tocchet, who loves two-way forwards.