The Philadelphia Flyers’ efforts to rebuild after several seasons of steady decline ran into an unexpected block at the start of this month: the Russian government.
Ivan Fedotov, one of the team’s top prospects and one of the best goalies in the world outside the NHL, was supposed to be moving to the United States this summer to start competing for a roster spot. Instead, he’s now being held at a remote base in northern Russia, according to his agent J.P. Barry, ostensibly on charges he tried to evade military service.
U.S. officials have been stepping carefully around Russia’s detention of American athletes. WNBA star Britney Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was taken into Russian custody four months ago. On July 7, she pled guilty to drug charges as part of her trial as her wife and supporters pleaded with the Biden administration to take action.
With this backdrop, and as Russia continues its Ukraine offensive, Fedotov’s status deepened concerns that other Russian players selected in this week’s NHL Draft might not make it to their chosen teams. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the situation on Thursday, telling reporters, “I think it’s probably not a good idea for us or clubs to get involved in the politics of what’s going on in Russia.”
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The draft this week did bring the Flyers several contenders to help elevate Philadelphia’s chances next season, but none of the picks were goalies.
While starter Carter Hart isn’t expected to leave the team anytime soon, finding a younger backup goalie to close the revolving door at that position is a major goal for the orange and black. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher had said he was looking forward to seeing what Fedotov could do.
But he won’t be able to contend for a roster spot if he’s still being held in Russia. Here’s everything we know so far about Fedotov’s current situation and circumstances.
When did Fedotov get arrested?
Fedotov was reportedly taken into custody by Russian law enforcement during the last week of June. News reached the U.S. on Friday, July 1, that he’d been picked up outside a hockey rink in St. Petersburg, and taken to a military enlistment center, according to reports from Russian media.
The 25-year-old was taken into custody on the grounds he was avoiding compulsory military service, per local news site Fontanka, which is a requirement of all Russian citizens.
What are the Russian military requirements?
All Russian men ages 18 to 27 must serve one year in the military. The war in Ukraine has fueled the country’s need for people to serve, with the Russian government saying this spring it intended to conscript 130,000 draftees.
Russia’s doctrine does allow for some exemptions, for medical reasons or by enrolling in alternative civil service or education programs.
The Russian military has an alternative unit for athletes who are skilled enough to compete at the elite level while enlisted. Called the Central Sports Club of the Army and known as CSKA, that’s where Fedotov has been playing for the past several years.
What’s Fedotov’s hockey cred, anyway?
The Flyers had originally selected Fedotov in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Draft. The franchise did not immediately go with Fedotov as a backup goalie, though.
Instead, Fedotov played in junior hockey leagues across Europe and Asia. He then joined the CSKA and played for the team in Moscow, leading them to champions of the KHL, or Kontinental Hockey League, this year.
Fedotov had a starring role in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. As goaltender for Russia, he allowed only eight goals in five games and was instrumental in helping the team win the silver medal. Stats-wise, going into the last game of the tournament, he was able to carry a .944 save percentage and a 1.53 goals-against average.
Where is he now? Will he be able to play for Philly?
The Russian government hasn’t confirmed Fedotov’s location, and there have been conflicting reports, per the Associated Press. A Russian news outlet reportedly published photos showing him held at a military base in Severodvinsk, on Russia’s north coast.
Prior to disappearing completely, Fedotov made a stop at a medical center. According to his lawyer, Alexi Ponomarev, he was given injections that made him rather sick and sparking rumors that he’d been poisoned.
The most recent thing Flyers GM Fletcher said on the matter is that the team is aware of the situation and investigating. The hope is that Fedotov will still be able to contend for a roster spot for the upcoming season.