NHL Teams weigh Risk of taking Russian Players in NHL Draft

The disturbing ongoing war in Ukraine has provided an additional increasing horizon of ambiguity for the franchises of the National Hockey League as the various teams interested in drafting Russian – born players wavers due to the fact that there are so many questions regarding those prospects availability to play in North America as well as ultimately in the NHL moving forward.

While currently there are no NHL teams that have openly said that they would avoid selecting Russian prospective players in the upcoming NHL drafts altogether, during the 2 – day draft in Montreal that begins on Thursday, July 7th, 2022 there is the ultimate possibility of Russia being shut – out throughout the 1st – round for the very first time since way back in 2005 when that pool of Russian players was not as good as it usually is.

“I don’t know if anybody has the answer,” the Seattle Kraken general manager, Ron Francis, unfortunately had no answer to the question. It’s certainly unknown right now so it makes it, I think, a little more – riskier than years past.

While there has pretty much always been a danger of Russian prospects deciding to stay home in order to play in Russia, the concerns are even larger now with all of the travel restrictions and protocols that are in place during the war between Ukraine and Russia for anyone hoping to travel either to or from Russia as well as Belarus. The executives of the National Hockey League are left to ponder if one of their potential draft picks will actually be allowed out of the country.

It also does not help that National Hockey League and their Russian – based counterpart in the Kontinental Hockey League don’t have a valid transfer agreement in place at the moment. That prevents NHL franchises from buying out players with existing KHL contracts which is a constant hurdle for any general manager of the NHL wishing to poach from the second – best league in the entire world.

Without disclosing the strategy of the Montreal Canadiens’, the Montreal Canadians general manager, Kent Hughes, thought it would be up to each NHL franchise to weigh the risks of selecting a Russian player as that ultimately seems to be the case.

“It’s simple enough to say that the war in Russia creates a level of complexity or probably more uncertainty,” the Montreal Canadians general manager, Kent Hughes, expressed. Any team picking has to balance the uncertainty of it with the potential of the player.”

Just the past week, the Philadelphia Flyers goalie prospect, Ivan Fedotov, was suddenly allocated to an isolated military base in northern Russia, according to Fedotov’s agent, J. P. Barry. Selected during the 7th – round of the 2015 draft, Fedotov inked a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers just this last May following him finishing out his previous contract with CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League.

“I think in years past, there’s probably a little bit of concern — just is the guy going to come over?” Francis goes on to mention prior to specifically referencing Fedotov. This is probably on a different magnitude.

While the National Hockey League has yet to issue any sort of directives in reference to drafting Russian players, the NHL’s Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly explained that the uncertainty could possibly lead to NHL teams being more hesitant to choosing Russian – born players.

Would it surprise me if some slip in where they’re projected to go based on the inability to access them?Potentially,” the Deputy Commissioner of the National Hockey League, Bill Daly, publicly expressed.

This year’s NHL draft class includes multiple Russian prospects with possible 1st – round aspirations under the normal circumstances surrounding the NHL draft.

The defenseman in Pavel Mintyukov is ranked 6th overall among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting due to the fact that he played in the Ontario Hockey League this past season. Whereas the wingers in Danila Yurov and Ivan Miroshnichenko, who played in Russia, are among the top 10 – ranked European skaters and have been heavily considered by potential NHL franchises.

The situation involving Miroshnichenko is considered a little more complicated due to the fact that he was unable to complete this season after he was eventually diagnosed unfortunately with Hodgkin’s lymphoma back in March of 2022. Since then, he has concluded his treatments and plans to attend the upcoming NHL draft.

The Detroit Red Wings general manager as well as one of the Detroit Red Wings all – time great players in their franchise history, Steve Yzerman, mentioned that the Detroit Red Wings are currently evaluating the top Russian prospects as they usually do. In other words, its business as usual for the Detroit Red Wings who are an original – 8 NHL franchise, and they are a model of North American ice hockey in general.

We’re preparing our lists or organizing our lists as we normally would,” the Detroit Red Wings’ general manager, Steve Yzerman, stated. “Ultimately, we’re going to want to draft really good prospects, and make sure they’re good kids.”

The Central Scouting chief of the NHL, Dan Marr, is confident that the players from Russia will be taken, but he won’t guess how long they might have to sit there and wait as they slip behind other players of possibly less talent.

I wouldn’t even want to try and guess as to what the NHL clubs are thinking,” says the Central Scouting chief Dan Marr. “If you’re sitting there and you’ve got a solid prospect for the NHL, are you going to go by him or do you want to step up and take him, and cross your fingers and hope that the world is in a different place a couple of years from now.”

Marr reiterated that he and his tight staff conducted a mock NHL draft in which the 1st – Russian player was not even selected until the 2nd – round of that mock draft.

Last year there were 29 – Russian players that were ultimately drafted which was the most since the year of 2003, and with Fedor Svechkov, selected # 19 by the Nashville Predators, he is the only player going during the 1st– round.

Just one – year after drafting 4 – Russian players, the Buffalo Sabres general manager, Kevyn Adams, is not ruling out the very real possibility of selecting more this year around. When putting together the Buffalo Sabres’ draft board, Adams explained to his staff that he wants them to rank each and every player as they usually would prior to placing an asterisk next to the Russian prospects in order to allow those players to be further discussed within the organization before a decision on them was to be made.

“If we get to a spot in the draft where we feel that there’s real value there, then we’re going to talk about that,” the Buffalo Sabres general manager, Kevyn Adams, exclaimed in reference to selecting Russian players. So, we’re open to that.

With 3 – 1st – round picks as well as 4 in the top – 41, Adams seemed to realize the Buffalo Sabres have more draft capital than many of the other NHL franchises to take a risk on a Russian player that more possess dire consequences.

I think it’s a unique spot for us,” Adams goes on to say.

Sources:

Wawrow, John. “NHL Draft: Teams weigh risks of selecting Russian prospects”. The Associated Press. July 5, 2022.

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