Take Russian hockey players in the upcoming NHL draft, or prefer not to take? Overseas clubs take a different approach to this because of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
The CHL, which brings together the most important Canadian juniors, recently eliminated all Russians and Belarusians from its next draft (we wrote about this happening here).
The NHL has not taken a similar step. North American competition boss Gary Bettman has confirmed that clubs can choose who they want in the July draft in Montreal. And Russians and Belarusians.
But it’s more complicated. While 29 Russian hockey players appeared in the last talent auction, there may be significantly fewer of them this year, as some clubs turn their backs on them.
One of the reasons is the fear of whether the selected Russian would arrive overseas, or for how long. This is nothing new, as the KHL likes to keep young domestic players for as long as possible and is able to offer them adequate money. However, the Russian war in Ukraine and the associated sanctions further complicate the situation.
By designing a Russian hockey player, the club can upset some fans and attract unwelcome attention.
“It is too risky to pay a Russian first-round election this year,” an unnamed NHL general manager told Toronto Sun. According to another, however, it is unfair to punish players for a war in which they themselves do not fight.
On the basis of draft rankings, which are compiled purely on the basis of hockey skills, this year at least two Russians – forward Danila Jurov and defender Pavel Mintukov – should pass the opening round, ie among the first 32 players. Both have a chance at the top ten.
Ivan Mirošničenko could supplement them, even though he missed part of last season due to lymph node cancer and will probably miss most of the next one. Without a tragic illness, the first round should be certain.
Other Russians are no longer counted on in the opening round, which is scheduled for July 7. However, even those mentioned have nothing certain in practice. For example, despite the unproductivity in the KHL, Jurov is one of the ten most talented hockey players of his year, according to most scouts. But a Russian passport can harm him.
“I think he could drop out of the first round or take the turn at the end. We like the player a lot, but I think the managers will be pushed to cross him,” an NHL official told The Athletic.
However, there is no single approach between clubs.
“One third of the league sees the current situation as an opportunity to get a good player. Another third of the Russians will take it, but only if it is the best available player at that moment, and another third will reject him with thanks,” said the scout.
Another revealed that his club would surely pass the Russians: “I can tell you we won’t take any. This decision came from higher floors.”
“I think we will see three Russians in the first round – Mintuk, Jurov and Miroshnichenko, but in general I think that these elite players will slip a little and the boys who are rated worse will definitely fail,” another scout added.