“I don’t know if anyone has the answer,” said Seattle general manager Ron Francis, whose team currently has 12 picks in seven rounds, including No. 4 overall. “It’s certainly unheard of right now, so that makes it, I think, a bit riskier than years past.”
Although there has always been a risk that Russian hopefuls may decide to stay home to play, concerns are greater now with travel restrictions in place during the war for anyone wishing to travel to or from Russia and the Belarus. NHL executives wonder if a pick will actually be allowed.
It doesn’t help that the NHL and its Russian counterpart, the Kontinental Hockey League, don’t have a transfer deal in place. This prevents NHL teams from buying out KHL contracts, a constant obstacle for any general manager hoping to attack the second-best league in the world.
Without divulging the Canadiens’ strategy, Montreal general manager Kent Hughes said it will be up to each team to weigh the risks of selecting a Russian player.
“It’s pretty simple to say that the war in Russia creates a level of complexity or probably more uncertainty,” Hughes told The Associated Press. “Any team choice has to balance uncertainty with the player’s potential.”
Last week, Philadelphia Flyers goalie prospect Ivan Fedotov was suddenly assigned to a remote military base in northern Russia, according to the player’s agent, JP Barry. Selected in the seventh round of the 2015 draft, Fedotov signed with the Flyers in May after completing his contract with CSKA Moscow in the KHL.
“I think over the last few years there’s probably been a bit of concern – is the guy going to come?” Francis said before specifically referring to Fedotov. “It’s probably of a different magnitude.”
Although the NHL hasn’t issued any guidelines regarding recruiting Russian players, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the uncertainty could cause teams to be more hesitant.
“Would it surprise me if some slipped where they were supposed to go due to the impossibility of accessing it? Potentially,” Daly said.
This year’s draft class includes several Russian prospects with first-round potential under normal circumstances.
Defenseman Pavel Mintyukov is ranked sixth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting because he played in the Ontario Hockey League last season. Wingers Danila Yurov and Ivan Miroshnichenko, who played in Russia, are among Europe’s top 10 skaters.
Miroshnichenko’s situation is more complicated as he was unable to complete his season after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March. He has since completed his treatments and plans to attend the draft.
Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman said the Red Wings are evaluating top Russian prospects as usual.
“We prepare our lists or organize our lists as we normally would,” Yzerman said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to want to sign some really good prospects and make sure they’re good kids.”
Central Scouting chief Dan Marr is confident the Russian players will be selected, but won’t guess how long they’ll have to wait.
“I wouldn’t even try to guess what the NHL clubs are thinking,” Marr said. “If you’re sitting there and you have a solid prospect for the NHL, are you going to go through him or are you going to step in and take him, and cross your fingers and hope the world is in another place a few years from now. from now.
Marr said he and his team conducted a mock draft in which the first Russian player was not selected until the second round.
Last year, 29 Russian players were drafted – the most since 2003 – with Fedor Svechkov, selected No. 19 by Nashville, the only one to participate in the first round.
A year after drafting four Russians, Buffalo Sabers general manager Kevyn Adams isn’t ruling out the possibility of selecting more this year. In putting together the Sabers roster, Adams told his staff to rank each player as usual before placing an asterisk next to Russian prospects to allow for further discussion.
“If we get to a point in the draft where we feel there’s real value there, then we’ll talk about it,” Adams said, referring to the selection of a Russian player. “So we are open to that.”
With three first-round selections and four in the top 41, Adams acknowledged the Sabers had more draft capital than other teams to take a risk on a Russian player.
“I think it’s a unique place for us,” Adams said.
AP Hockey writers Stephen Whyno, Larry Lage and AP sportswriter Tim Booth contributed to this story.
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