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Live From Montreal: NHL Draft Notebook

Russians - both those in the NHL and those hoping to get there - are a hot topic, while the first live draft in years has everyone buzzing.
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MONTREAL - NHL teams are preparing for their first live draft since Vancouver in 2019 and the excitement for the GMs and scouts is obvious. But there is still the burning question of how much the 'Russian Factor' will play into the picks on Day 1. And now, there's another Russian question as the Philadelphia Flyers deal with goalie prospect Ivan Fedotov's apparent military conscription, while the Minnesota Wild tend to rumors that star winger Kirill Kaprizov has quickly left Russia with authorities pursuing him on some wild legal charges.

Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher was careful about commenting on the serious Fedotov situation, but he did weigh in on the entry draft. He noted that scouting players over in Russia was trickier this season because teams did not have the benefit of seeing those players as much as usual (Russia was banned from the world under-18s, for example, and no players came over for the draft combine). But that didn't seem to be a deterrent overall for him.

"The biggest thing was live viewings - some of those were curtailed," Fletcher said. "I can't speak about what recent events would mean...it's not going to impact us. There are players we like and regardless of passport or where they're from, we'll still take the right player at the right time."

Two of the most prominent names to keep in mind for Round 1 are Danila Yurov and Ivan Miroshnichenko. Both are apparently in Montreal, which is obviously a great first step. And both are first-round talents for sure, with powerful, offensively-gifted skill sets. The question now of course, is who steps up, and how high in the draft do they go? If both had been born and raised in Saskatchewan, you're looking at Yurov going in the top 10 and Miroshnichenko (further burdened by a recent fight with Hodgkin's lymphoma) soon thereafter.

New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello was his usual cagey self on that topic, coyly saying "We'll have to see at the draft," when asked about whether Russians will be impacted in the rankings. He did weigh in on the Russians already on the Islanders roster, however, and New York does have some key players in that boat: crucially, goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin. But the GM was not worried about his netminders returning to Long Island for the season.

"I don't have any concerns about any of our players," Lamoriello said. "I only can worry about our players and I'm very comfortable in situations with our players. And I think that's the best way I can answer that because I don't know all the circumstances involved in other situations."

Down in Dallas, Stars GM Jim Nill is keeping an eye on his players, both present and future. The most notable? Denis Gurianov.

"He's already back in Russia, so there's nothing we can do about that," Nill said. "We have a young player, Artem Grushnikov, who played for OHL Hamilton, and he's being very careful with what he does. They probably know better than we do - they've lived there and they know what's going on."

In other news, there was an overall sense in Montreal that everyone is just happy to get back to in-person events, where GMs can bump into each other in town and scouting staffs can all get together.

"We just had our amateur meetings two weeks ago," Nill said. "It was the first time since the outdoor game in 2020 that we've been together. There's just something about that face-to-face interaction."

And while video has become an important tool for teams, there was certainly a sense of relief that scouts and execs were allowed to go to games this year.

"With the top players we always had a lot of viewings," Fletcher said. "Where it works out a bit more is getting a better feel for the players lower down on the list where you wouldn't spend as much time on video - you're able to get out and see them live and meet them. It's been much more enjoyable than watching games on a computer all winter."

Finally, it's been quite the whirlwind for new San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier. One day after being introduced at a press conference in California, he was at his very first GMs meeting in Montreal. And he also had to deal with the unexpected passing of scout Bryan 'Mush' Marchment.

"It's a very difficult day for our staff," Grier said. "When you scout, you spend a lot of time together, so it's a very emotional day. We gave them some time to regroup, to process and grieve. We'll get back to it tomorrow. 'Mush,' that's what he would say; he'd want us to get back to work and have the best draft possible."

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