Jul 05, 2022
NHL Draft: Teams weigh risks of selecting Russian prospects
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The war in Ukraine has added an increasing level of uncertainty for NHL teams interested in drafting Russia-born prospects because of questions regarding their availability to play in North America.
While no team has openly stated it would avoid selecting Russians altogether in the two-day draft in Montreal that opens Thursday, there is the potential of Russia being shut out in the first round for the first time since 2005.
“I don’t know if anybody has the answer,” said Seattle general manager Ron Francis, whose team currently has 12 picks over seven rounds, including No. 4 overall. “It’s certainly unknown right now so it makes it, I think, a little more riskier than years past.”
While there has always been a risk of Russian prospects deciding to stay home to play, the concerns are greater now with travel restrictions in place during the war for anyone wishing to travel to or from Russia and Belarus. NHL executives are left to wonder if a pick will actually be allowed out.
It doesn’t help that NHL and its Russian-based counterpart, the Kontinental Hockey League, do not have a transfer agreement in place. That prevents NHL teams from buying out KHL contracts, a consistent hurdle for any GM hoping to raid the second-best league in the world.
Without disclosing the Canadiens’ strategy, Montreal GM Kent Hughes said it will be up to each team to weigh the risks of selecting a Russian player.
“It’s simple enough to say that the war in Russia creates a level of complexity or probably more uncertainty,” Hughes told The Associated Press. “Any team picking has to balance the uncertainty of it with the potential of the player.”
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, J.P. 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 in years past, there’s probably a little bit of concern — just is the guy going to come over?” Francis said before specifically referencing Fedotov. “This is probably on a different magnitude.”
While the NHL has not issued any directives regarding drafting Russian players, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the uncertainty could lead to teams being more hesitant.
“Would it surprise me if some slip in where they’re projected to go based on the inability to access them? 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 the top 10-ranked European skaters.
Miroshnichenko’s situation is more complicated because 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.
Central Scouting chief Dan Marr is confident Russian players will be selected but won’t guess how long they might have to wait.
“I wouldn’t even want to try and guess as to what the NHL clubs are thinking,” Marr said. “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 said he and his staff conducted a mock draft in which the first Russian player wasn’t 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 going in the first round.
A year after drafting four Russians, Buffalo Sabres GM Kevyn Adams isn’t ruling out the possibility of selecting more this year. In putting together the Sabres’ draft board, Adams told his staff to rank each player as usual before placing an asterisk next to the Russian prospects to allow for further discussion.
“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,” Adams said, referring to selecting a Russian player. “So, we’re open to that.”
With three first-round selections and four in the top 41, Adams acknowledged the Sabres have more draft capital than other teams to take a risk on a Russian player.
“I think it’s a unique spot for us,” Adams said.
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno and AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this story.
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Nets Linked to Former Sixth Man of the Year and Three Point Champ in Proposed Trade
Getty Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets
The NBA offseason continues rolling on with training camp quickly approaching, and yet there still remains a lot of uncertainty around where things with the Brooklyn Nets will end up. All signs are seeming to point to Kevin Durant eventually returning to the Nets last season. The 12-Time All-Star has been reported to be meeting with Nets ownership, and he was also recently seen with Nets teammate Ben Simmons in LA. Kyrie Irving is also feeling better about the chances of going back to Brooklyn.
“A source close to Irving said this week that the seven-time All-Star is in a good place with the Nets and comfortable entering the 2022-23 season,” Ian Begley wrote for SNY.
So far already, the Nets have had a sneaky successful offseason this year, and bringing back Irving and Durant would make them instant contenders next season. If they are able to bring back their two franchise players, expect them to make other moves to finalize their roster.
Brooklyn has been linked in trade rumors to players like John Collins, who is on the trade block for the Atlanta Hawks. They have also been called the ‘best fit’ to land eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard as a free agent. However, recently another name has been named as a player that the Nets should target from the trading block.Nets Should Trade For Eric Gordon
In a recent article from Sports Illustrated’s Fan Nation, Ben Stinar wrote about one player that Brooklyn should target, Eric Gordon. The Houston Rockets have had veteran shooting guard Eric Gordon on the trading block for a while now but have been in no rush to trade the star.
“While Houston Rockets veteran guard Eric Gordon drew trade interest around the draft, there’s no urgency to trade him currently. Houston views Gordon as an asset on the court and a veteran mentor to the young core. His $19.5 million salary can be used as part of a large trade before the deadline, and his skill set as a shooter, playmaker, and defender remains attractive enough to playoff teams that he’s expected to retain a trade market for his services,” Michael Scott of Hoops Hype reported.
Gordon averaged 13.4 points per game on over 41% shooting from the three-point range last season. However, most impressive for Gordon is that he averaged a career-high 6.4 assists in his fourteenth career season. With his playmaking ability and sharpshooting, Gordon could be an excellent addition to the Nets, and it may not take a lot to get a deal done for him.Teams Hesitant to Negotiate with Brooklyn
After the trade request, the Nets have been unable to get a deal done for Durant or Irving. Most teams don’t have the assets to deal for Kevin Durant without having a third team in the negotiations. However, other NBA teams are hesitant to jump into the deals and help Brooklyn facilitate that, according to Begley’s reporting.
“Part of the pessimism stemmed from the idea that, as of last month, there was little appetite in the market for teams to serve as a third or fourth team to facilitate a Durant trade.
‘No one wants to help (Brooklyn get a deal done),’ one team remarked.” Begley wrote.
If no teams are willing to be the third team to push a deal for Durant passed the finish line, perhaps the team will look for other players like Collins or Gordon.