There’s no mistake that the Kontinental Hockey League has an abundance of talent. “The Great 8” himself, Alexander Ovechkin, got his start playing with now known as Dynamo Moscow. Evgeni Malkin? His playing days began with Metallurg. Fast forward to 2022 and now names like Andrey Kuzmenko and the saga with New York Rangers’ Vitali Kravtsov sit in the grey area of the NHL.
The Philadelphia Flyers are in need of some new blood on the roster. So is it worth taking a risk on Russian players in this upcoming draft? Some signs from the Flyers’ front office point to yes.
Basics first of suspended contracts
Just a primer of what happened since the crisis in Ukraine started back in February 2022:
- NHL moved to distance itself from Russia by ending their MOU: memordium of understanding.
- League ended dealings with the KHL and Russian-based agents (as of June 2022 they have not resumed)
- No formal communications
So this means that any free agents cannot join any NHL teams and those drafted playing over in the KHL to develop are in no man’s land. As the NHL Draft nears on July 7th, there seems to be little sign in letting up in these suspended communications.
Who is worth the gamble for the Broad Street Bullies?
One player the Flyers signed and can breathe a sign of relief is goaltender Ivan Fedotov. The 25-year-old previously played for CSKA Moscow in the 2021-2022 season and lead the team to the Gagarin Cup. He was named as a finalist for the KHL’s Best Goalie Award.
Fedotov was drafted by the Flyers in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and just signed his one-year entry-level contract in May 2022. Thankfully, the Flyers maintained his NHL rights and with KHL obligations fulfilled, he’s an easy addition to the squad.
While some teams will refuse to draft Russian players as a result of the Ukraine crisis, a big question will be how much control the Flyers will have over a player’s development path. Take for example Danila Yurov, a winger who could fit in well with pool of one-dimensonal wingers. He’s been rocketing up the draft board and is projected to go 14th overall.
However, playing his career for Metallurg means that the KHL will want some control over his rights. He’s the top draft prospect from the country, but in house prospects like Tyson Foerster pose much less risk. While Yurov would be an asset to the Flyers, logistics could disrupt an otherwise smooth signing of a rookie draft selection.
Can I easily sum up the risk of what drafting a Russian player might mean? No, since every team’s moral and values are going to likely play a small part. Philadelphia needs forwards and defenders but there are plenty on the draft board they can put in their own development camp. It’s not an easily solvable question and not one that will have a solution by the time it’s Draft Day in Montreal.
(Photo by Mickael Chavet/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)