Yesterday we wrapped up our countdown of the top Leafs outside the NHL. Or so you thought. We have one more player to discuss. He kinda fell through the cracks as we completed our rankings before he became a Leaf, and now it’s worth discussing where Alexander Barabanov fits in to the conversation.
When looking at our list, we’ve got Timothy Liljegren at the #1 spot. He’s considered fully NHL ready by our voters, and scored only slightly lower than Nick Robertson for what we perceived his upside to be. Barabanov isn’t slotting in at #1.
Nick Robertson’s upside puts him ahead of Barabanov as well, especially since Robertson could very much be in the fight for the same job as Barabanov come training camp time. Odds are Barabanov will see NHL time before Robertson, but there is little doubt that Robertson will have a bigger impact.
That brings us to Agostino and Petan. On paper they are all pretty similar. They’ve done great outside the NHL, but there are question marks on if they can stick in the NHL for a season. They are all undersized, but know how to do enough at both ends of the ice that calling them up for bottom six duty isn’t out of the question either. Barabanov would likely slot in with the this group, but now the question is where.
Well, I can’t imagine that Barabanov has come to North America to play with the Marlies, so organizationally, we’ll assume that he slots in a head of Petan and Agostino. That being said, should he?
While it would be easy to compare their offensive production, Barabanov and Mikheyev play different ways to achieve the same results. Both are very fast, but Mikheyev’s 5″ height advantage makes him more rangy. Barabanov punches the puck deep into the zone and skates below the goal line to find a pass, while Mikheyev is more likely to stop up and look cross ice on the rush.
They both play a good 200 foot game and pick up a trailer on the backcheck, but Mikheyev uses his skating to get to an area where his long stick can take away the pass, and Barabanov commits to one player to win the numbers battle on defence.
Barabanov has spent his entire pro career with SKA St. Petersburg. From age 21-23 he played his first 3 ‘full’ KHL seasons, growing closer to 0.5 P/G each year. While it doesn’t sound impressive, three out of four U23 KHL players to score 0.5 P/G last season were drafted by NHL teams.
It’s worth a look taking a look at that full article, as Earl does an excellent job of breaking down Barabanov’s game and should put your mind at ease both about his size and his decline in point production last year, and helps make the case for why Barabanov is the clear cut number three when it comes to the Top Leafs Outside the NHL.
So where does Barabanov fit into the the 2020-21 Leafs roster? Well let’s look at the status quo…
So, assuming that mystery box could be Korshkov, Petan, Agostino, Gauthier, Clifford, Spezza, Robertson, or pretty much anyone. That doesn’t do a whole lot for the possibility that the Leafs move on from Kerfoot as a center, or make additional salary room by shipping out some forwards, but at the very least it looks like there is a spot on the Leafs roster for Barabanov as long as he doesn’t look bad in camp, or that we see both Clifford and Spezza return.
In short, Barabanov is going to be given afforded every option to play on the Leafs, and if the Leafs make any significant chances at forward, there’s a very good chance that he’ll get a shot at 3rd line duty. While another undersized forward isn’t exactly what everyone has in mind for what’s best for the Leafs, it’s hard to complain about found wallet entry level free agents, and hopefully Barabanov can be another success story.
#10 Mac Hollowell
#9 Mikhail Abramov
#8 Teemu Kivihalme
#7 Jeremy Bracco
#6 Egor Korshkov
#5 Pontus Aberg
#4 Kenny Agostino
#3 Nic Petan
#2 Nick Robertson
#1 Timothy Liljegren