Babenko, the 1997-born forward, spent the 2014-2015 season playing with Togliatti Ladya of the MHL. In 53 games, the Tyumin, Russia native collected 50 points (27g-23a) along with 78 penalty minutes. In two seasons in the MHL, the 5’9”, 145-pounder collected 65 points (37g-29a) in 98 games.
“We are going to let their actions speak for them and we are not going to have any preconceived ideas about what kind of player they are. We’ve been told that Babenko is a skilled player, but we are going to let him speak for himself with his actions,” said Hurricanes General Manager Peter Anholt.
Babenko was selected in the first round, 19th overall in the 2014 KHL Entry Draft by CSKA Moskva, but was not selected in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft despite being eligible.
Merezhko, the 1998-born defenseman, spent the 2014-2015 season playing with Redbull Salzburg team where in 26 games he collected 10 points (6g-4a) along with 16 penalty minutes. The Kharkov, Ukraine product is a right-hand shot rearguard who is 6’2”, 181-pounds.
“I like his size. He’ll have some big adjustments with the smaller ice coming over here. I had some fairly good reports on him from a lot of hockey guys,” said Anholt. “We thought we needed to continue to add to our defense core and this was one way we could do that and we thought it was a good pick with our second selection.”
Anholt continued that it was important to draft players that they can develop and work with for more than one season, “That was kind of the line of thinking we wanted. If Babenko turns out to be the player we hope he will be, that he can possibly have a chance to being a top six guy but be here for two years. Merezhko being a ’98, he could possibly be here for three and he has some pro potential being the size that he is.”