An overwhelming uncertainty of Russian players who returned to their home country this offseason looms over the NHL, including New York Islanders star goaltender Ilya Sorokin.
As Ukraine continues its defense against Russian aggression at its borders and in key cities, Russian-born players between the age of 18-27 could be dragged back into military service, which is a mandatory one-year requirement for all men between the ages of 18 and 27 years old.
Sorokin is 26.
Philadelphia Flyers goaltending prospect Ivan Fedotov was apprehended by Russian law enforcement last month and subsequently sent to serve at a base in the Arctic after he was accused of evading his military service.
Fedotov played for CSKA Moscow of the KHL — the team remaining a part of Russia’s Defense Ministry regardless of the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years ago — and in May alerted the team that he would not play to the end of his contract after signing with the Flyers.
That decision prompted Russian action and seems to have sent warnings to other NHL players that left for North America.
“The Army owns the rights to many young [former CSKA Moscow] players who are now playing abroad,” a report from RIA Novosti (h/t The Insider) read. “If they don’t officially resolve the issue with the military enlistment office, then such players as Egor Afanasyev, Artem Grushnikov, Ilya Sorokin, Denis Guryanov, and Dmitry Samorukov could face the same problems that Ivan Fedotov did.”
Sorokin’s split from CSKA Moscow ended significantly more admirably after spending six seasons with the team — a four-year contract was extended by another two years and completed before he made the jump to join the Islanders during the 2019-20 season.
However, it remains unclear whether or not a player’s time with CSKA translates to any type of military service, which is why the Novosti report lists Sorokin as a player that could potentially face similar issues as Fedotov and be stuck in Russia for the start of the 2022-23 NHL season.
Thomas Arkell of the Dunn Law Firm in Chicago exclusively practices immigration law and has done so for over two decades.
“I handle immigration matters for many different NHL players from Russia,” he exclusively told amNewYork, though no clarity involving Sorokin was available. “Each case is unique but given recent events, there is additional cause for concern for players who need to return to North America for the upcoming NHL season.”
The huge question mark was made even larger when it was reported on Wednesday that Minnesota Wild star winger Kirill Kaprizov, who played three years for CSKA, is wanted in Russia for buying fraudulent military IDs. While Russian newspaper Sport-Express reported that the 25-year-old fled Russia to return to the States, Wild general manager Bill Guerin confirmed on Wednesday night that Kaprizov is still and Russia and is “doing fine.”
Such confirmation has yet to come from the Islanders regarding Sorokin, as it appears the netminder is in Russia according to a July 5 Instagram post from Dmitry Yashankin.
Sorokin’s agent, Daniel Milstein, declined to comment to amNewYork while the Islanders did not reply to this publication’s inquiry to confirm his whereabouts.
“I only can worry about our players and I’m very comfortable with the situation of our players,” Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said on Wednesday in Montreal ahead of the 2022 NHL Draft (h/t Stefen Rosner, NYI Hockey Now). “And I think that’s the best way I can answer that. Because I don’t know all the circumstances involved in other situations and you know, everything sometimes gets blown out of proportion.”