What A Russian Passport Ban Could Do To New Jersey Devils Hockey Operations

The New Jersey Devils have a few exciting Russian prospects, but one government decision could lead to a much harder route to the U.S.
Spartak Hockey Club player, Daniil Orlov (62) seen in action...
Spartak Hockey Club player, Daniil Orlov (62) seen in action... / SOPA Images/GettyImages
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For those of you who typically use sports as a form of refuge from everyday matters, this article won't suit you. James Nichols of New Jersey Hockey Now posted an article about a hot-button issue concerning Russian player citizens' passport issues back home. This could serverely hurt the New Jersey Devils prospects, especially any that are playing in North America now.

As many prospect analysts would know, this is a big variable that would hurt the overall talent pool of the NHL. If the ban only lasts one year, then it wouldn't hurt a guy like Arseni Gritsyuk since he has one year left on his KHL deal. But if it is a continuous ban for 5-10 years, then the NHL needs to step in and give all 32 teams with Russian players freed space to sign other prospects and roster players to deals. It could potentially narrow the Devils, and other teams' prospect pools.

A five-year ban wouldn't hurt the Devils prospect pool as Daniil Orlov and Artyom Barabosha are still younger players developing their game. If something draconian like a 10-year ban hit, then Commissioner Gary Bettman should step in. There are five Russian prospects but one of them being Daniil Misyul, who is a native of Belarus with a Russian passport. The one Belarusian prospect in Daniil Karpovich a recent draft selection who has a higher potential for a young defenseman similar to former Devils prospect Shakir Mukhamadullin. Karpovich should not be hit by a potential ban since the opposition in Belarus fought off a Belarusian passport ban in the recent past.

If the Devils can't obtain the services of all five Russian passport holders, then the NHL should give five NHL Draft picks based on where each player was drafted in that round. Arseni Gritsyuk was a 5th Round pick, Daniil Orlov was a 4th Round draft pick, Yegor Zaitsev was a 7th rounder, Daniil Misyul was a 3rd rounder, and Artyom Barabosha was another 7th round draftee. The Devils have found bountiful amounts of talent and skill, but the problem is that geopolitics is getting in their way of keeping that pipeline flowing if a ban takes place in the near and long term. These picks should be spread out to where the Devils will want these picks in the next season or a few over time.

However, that becomes tricky. Teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, who just selected Matvei Mitchkov with a top-ten pick, would want similar compensation back.

There are two highly sought-after Russian players, Ivan Demidov and Anton Silayev. Both are Top 5 and Top 10 Picks on my draft board before this potential passport ban. However, if the ban took place, then we would have a potential zero Russian drafted throughout seven rounds for all 32 teams because then it would be wasted picks with hoping the Russian Foreign Ministry uplifts a ban if it were to go into effect. This political power play, no pun intended, would potentially hurt a lot of teams with NHL players with Russian passports.

This could force players like Nikita Zadorov to go back home and not get through any loopholes in the Iron Fist of Russia's potential passport ban. Matvei Gridin, who is one of the top North American skaters, could be forced into similar decisions since he is a Russian citizen and is committed to the University of Michigan. Igor Chernyshov and Matvei Shuravin also getting hit hard by a ban that would hurt their futures in getting into the NHL.

Mikhail Yegorov is a goalie who was on a team with Devils prospect Chase Cheslock (before he graduated to NCAA hockey). Yegorov's game has a lot of positive upside, and he is listed as the number-one goalie in North America from Russia for the Omaha Lancers in the USHL. These kinds of games put him on my goalie watch list, and he will take time to develop some rebound control but good at commanding games on an underwhelming Lancers team. Yegorov is committed to playing at Boston University, and the Devils scouts will keep an eye on him in the college ranks if he can stay in the USA longer.

At the NHL Free Agency level, Vladimir Tarasenko, Nikita Zaitsev, Nikita Zadorov, Ilya Samsonov, Ilya Lyubushkin, Alexander Barabanov, and Yakov Trenin are just a handful of Russian players that are in UFA status this summer. There are a lot of moving parts with this conflict from Russia that would squander what the Devils and the NHL could do in the NHL Draft, development, and trying to sign potential Russian UFA's.

To recap, the ban would only impact players already playing in North America (or other European countries). Players like Gritsyuk can choose to get their passport renewed now and be good for 10 years. Players in Russia now should have no issue getting their passports and then coming to play in North America, but that's a slippery slope. Also, the Russian government has vehemently denied this approach. The NHL already suspended the NHL-KHL agreement after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, so many think this has already made signing Russian players more difficult. If this were to come into play, it would only make it harder.

See more of Joe's scouting work at Draft Pro Hockey.

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