The Detroit Red Wings have enjoyed tremendous success drafting Russians, but the war in Ukraine adds difficulty to doing so this year.
"Russian players were hard to assess and evaluate because it was difficult early to get in there and then you weren’t getting in there at all, or going there," Yzerman said Tuesday. "There’s always the usual concerns, and throw in just the uncertainty of what’s going on in Russia and a little bit of uncertainty as to what players can and can’t do — will they be available now or any time in the future. It adds just another level of uncertainty to the whole drafting of Russian players."
The NHL draft is Thursday and Friday in Montreal. Yzerman drafted a Russian, Kirill Tyutyayev, in 2019, at No. 190. The best Russians they've drafted are Sergei Fedorov in the fourth round in 1989, Vladimir Konstantinov in the 11th round the same year, and Pavel Datsyuk in the sixth round in 1998. All went on to help the Wings win the Stanley Cup.
The Wings hold their first pick Thursday at No. 8. After two years of the pandemic disrupting leagues around the world, Yzerman said he and his scouts have a better handle on prospective picks headed into this draft.
"(We have) a little bit more familiarity with all the players," Yzerman said. "March and April are really important times, we’re all excited about the U18s and watching these kids in the playoffs, and everybody shut down so we missed an important part of the season two years ago. Last year, some of the kids didn’t even play, it was really challenging. This year it was somewhat a return to normalcy."
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Steve Yzerman: Ukraine war adds uncertainty about drafting Russians