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2022 NHL Draft

Will Penguins Say ‘Nyet’ To Russian Prospects in NHL Draft?

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NHL Trade deadline, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall

Ivan Miroshnichenko is the kind of player the Pittsburgh Penguins would like to add to their prospects pool.

On a lot of levels, at least.

He is 6-1, 185 pounds, a right-handed shot who plays the off-wing.

Miroshnichenko not only is quick, but fast. He is willing to operate in high-traffic areas and able to win one-on-one battles there. His repertoire of shots is diverse and formidable.

It’s no surprise that many draft analysts projected him to be among the top 10 players selected in the NHL Draft, which will be held Thursday and Friday in Montreal.

But that was before a couple of huge caveats emerged for any team that considers claiming him.

Miroshnichenko was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma (the ailment Mario Lemieux overcame in 1993) in March, ending his 2021-22 season and raising the possibility that he might have to sit out much of 2022-23.

The limited information available about his condition and recovery has been encouraging, but there obviously are risks in drafting a player whose medical history includes a bout with cancer.

And there’s more. Something that might be at least as much of an issue for some prospective employers in North America as Miroshnichenko’s ability to beat his disease.

He is Russian.

That a player hails from that country really hadn’t been much of an issue for NHL clubs during the past three decades, since the Soviet Union collapsed and the Iron Curtain fell.

Before that, clubs couldn’t always be certain that players from Russia or its satellite countries would be allowed to relocate to North America; that was part of the reason Jaromir Jagr, who lived in Czechoslovakia, was still available for the Pittsburgh Penguins to claim with the fifth selection in the 1990 draft.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has drawn fierce criticism from much of the world. And while most of the outrage has focused on Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, some athletes from that country have felt the backlash, too.

Russian tennis players have been banned from participating in the Wimbledon tournament, and it’s entirely possible that some hockey players will be selected later than expected — or not chosen at all — in Montreal.

There is no indication that Fenway Sports Group, the Penguins’ primary owner, has instructed Ron Hextall to refrain from using any of the team’s five selections in this draft on a Russian prospect.

It is, of course, far from guaranteed — and not even likely, really — that a Russian will happen to be atop their rankings of available prospects when the Penguins are picking.

For some clubs, passing on Russians might be strictly a moral stance. Others might blend their indignation with a more practical concern: Not knowing if a drafted prospect will be able to leave his country.

The specter of that resurfaced a few days ago, when Russian authorities detained goalie Ivan Fedotov, who had signed with Philadelphia in May. They contended that Fedotov had evaded mandatory military service, and took him to a naval base in the Arctic.

He reportedly will be compelled to serve a year in the Russian military, then resume his playing career with a team in the KHL, not Philadelphia. When, if ever, he will be allowed to go to North American isn’t clear.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have one prospect, forward Kirill Tankov, playing in Russia, but they are not believed to have any interest in having him leave that country for the coming season. Tankov was a seventh-round draft choice in 2021.

Fedotov’s situation revived memories of the days when the Soviet Union was intact, and surely was noticed by highly regarded Russian prospects such as right winger Danila Yurov and defenseman Pavel Mintyukov. Their draft stock might not fall because of what’s happened with Fedotov, but it certainly won’t rise.

Their promising young careers might well become collateral damage of Russia’s aggression, even if they’re nowhere near Ukraine.

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Chris R
Chris R
1 month ago

It seems extremely shortsighted of players who did choose to go home to not be leaving ASAP. What’s happening to Fedetov is some giant graffiti writing on the wall, and I’ll be surprised if they get out unscathed. At this point, they may be terrified that if they appear to be fleeing it will be taken out on family and friends.

Rich FILARDI
Rich FILARDI
1 month ago

I think this is the perfect opportunity to draft these perceived fallen players. This isnt the 80s 90s anymore, these guys will be here much sooner if not right away. What is Hextalls track for drafting Russians?

Last edited 1 month ago by Rich Filardi
Pete
Pete
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Exactly

Jack McCrory
Jack McCrory
1 month ago

Russian should be banned from the draft and the NHL next season periou

Bob
Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack McCrory

Then Canadien players should be banned as well with that psychopath running that Country!

Jay95
Jay95
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack McCrory

That’s ridiculous. You don’t ban people be a use of their leadership.

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
1 month ago

Dave, with all the military actions in Ukraine occurring, I would stay away from any Russian players in Russia. There’s 3 Russian Dman bangers in NHL I would love on Penguins. The 2 big boys UFAS Nikita and my boy from Leafs. Love the young Canadian Dman from Russia. Plus he’s had medical issues.

bdgr
bdgr
1 month ago

imagine drafting this kid (Miro); he becomes ready sooner than later, and we somehow retained malkin. Thus, a 2/3 russian chemistry line behind, sid. damn, my fandom is leaking into my logic.

Dorothy Tecklenburg
Dorothy Tecklenburg
1 month ago

I am all for doing/not doing things for moral issues, but I think if the Russians are trying so hard to keep them, then the moral thing to do is to take them!

William Maloni
William Maloni
1 month ago

Except Putin is a psychopath.

As with Brittany Griner and other “prisoners,” he won’t relent unless given something major (parts of Ukraine?).
While I would love a Russian player, with talent, I am afraid that politics make it an unwise choice.

Russian skaters must be concerned with personal and family retribution.

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