The Canadian Hockey League, the parent organization of the WHL, OHL and QMJHL, has decided not to allow Russian and Belarusian players into the league next season via the import draft.
A statement from the Canadian Hockey League / Une déclaration de la Ligue canadienne de hockey pic.twitter.com/Fo1E8IkTpr— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) April 27, 2022
The statement reads in full:
The Canadian Hockey League announced today that Russian and Belarusian players will be ineligible for selection in the 2022 CHL Import Draft to be held Friday, July 1. This does not include those players who are currently on a CHL team protected list.
The Canadian Hockey League remains committed to the safety, well-being, and the development of all of its players regardless of their country of origin.
For more information on what a protected list is the CHL provides this explainer:
The statement is somewhat confusing since players on a protected list are already in the CHL and would not be drafted. So that part seems to be a reassurance that those Russian and Belarusian players already in the CHL can remain.
No other explanation has been provided as to the reasons for this choice, which will naturally lead to speculation as night follows day.
The NHL has assured reporters at the GMs meetings recently and at least once since (as reported on Insider Trading) that they have no plans to limit Russian participation in the NHL Entry Draft.
There is currently nothing impeding Russians or Belarusians from getting an entry visa or a work permit in either Canada or the USA. Russia is not currently barring players from exiting the country.
Until the CHL makes it clear if this is meant as some kind of private sanction (such as the recent decision by Wimbledon to bar Russian tennis players) or if it is out of concern for the safety and security of the Russian players themselves, we can’t be sure what’s going on here.
This comes at a time when we should expect the NHL interest in Russian free agent Andrei Kuzmenko to heat up.
Earlier this season, an on-ice report of slurs aimed at a Russian player resulted in no league action from the OHL:
OHL says Russian slur aimed at Battalion player ‘cannot be substantiated’
It’s not known how many other teams have had similar incidents of on-ice or off-ice harassment.
This season the OHL has 20 Russian and three Belarussian players. The WHL has four Russians and eight Belarussians, and the QHJHL has nine Russians and four Belarussians. (Numbers are from the Elite Prospects filtering tool.)
This OHL chart from Elite Prospects shows the scale of import players in the league:
If someone gets the CHL to explain themselves more fully, we’ll try to update you.