Slava Voynov (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Russia released its final World Cup roster, but the inclusion of former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov has created controversy. Voynov, 26, left the NHL in September after pleading no contest to a domestic violence charge, and the NHL will “review his status” before allowing him to play in the tournament.
Russia’s preliminary roster for the World Cup was composed entirely of NHL talent, but the completed roster will see four KHL players head over early in the primarily Russian league’s season to compete at the tournament, including one familiar face who has overshadowed the entire announcement.
Three NHL blueliners were added to the roster in the Canadiens’ Alexei Emelin, Red Wings’ Alexey Marchenko and Maple Leafs’ rookie Nikita Zaitsev, while the four KHL players include CSKA Moscow’s Ivan Telegin, as well as three members from SKA St Petersburg: Evgeny Dadonov, Vadim Shipachyov and former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, who is one of the more shocking additions to any of the World Cup clubs given his recent history.
Voynov, 26, unceremoniously left the NHL before the 2015-16 campaign following a plea of no contest to domestic violence charges that dated back to an incident in October 2014. Voynov entered his no contest plea in July 2015, at which point he was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Upon his release from California's Seal Beach Detention Center in September, Voynov was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement before choosing to leave the country willingly and return to Russia.
Voynov announced he would begin the process of leaving the NHL in mid-September, and the Kings followed up by announcing that it had been their intention to terminate Voynov’s contract. “However, Mr. Voynov’s announcement…of his intention to leave the United States and return to Russia makes the termination unnecessary,” the Kings said in a statement.
Russia’s inclusion of Voynov is both surprising and head-scratching, but his addition to the team doesn’t mean he’ll play in the tournament, which is set to begin in September. Following Voynov’s addition to the Russian roster, the league announced that his eligibility to play at the tournament will be put under review, and it seems likely the NHL will decide to keep Voynov away from the World Cup.
"We will obviously have to review his status with the Players' Association prior to the start of the tournament in September," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in the statement, via ESPN.com. "It is not my current expectation that this player will be deemed eligible to play in the World Cup of Hockey."
When Voynov left for the KHL, he was in the midst of a six-year, $25-million contract with the Los Angeles Kings. He signed with SKA St. Petersburg on in October 2015, and managed seven points, all assists, in 23 games with the Russian club. Voynov also participated at the World Championship for Russia netting one goal and three points in 10 games.
As for the additions that Voynov overshadowed, both Dadonov and Shipachyov were standouts in the KHL this past season, while Telegin is a potentially promising youngster. Shipachyov, the 29-year-old St. Petersburg captain, scored 17 goals and 60 points. Dadonov, a 27-year-old former Florida Panther, notched 23 goals and 46 points. Telegin, 24, had six goals and nine points.
There are, of course, two players conspicuously absent from the roster: Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk. Radulov is a longtime star in the KHL, but is seeking an NHL contract this summer. His exclusion from the team is shocking considering his talent level. As for Kovalchuk, he’s coming off of a disappointing post-season in which he was benched by SKA. That likely played a part in keeping him off of the World Cup roster.
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Alexei Emelin, Montreal Canadiens *
D Dmitry Kulikov, Florida Panthers
D Alexey Marchenko, Detroit Red Wings *
D Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens
D Dmitry Orlov, Washington Capitals
D Slava Voynov, SKA Saint Petersburg (KHL) *
D Nikita Zaitsev, Toronto Maple Leafs *
F Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks
F Evgeny Dadonov, SKA Saint Petersburg (KHL) *
F Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikolay Kulemin, New York Islanders
F Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
F Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Vladislav Namestnikov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks
F Vadim Shipachyov, SKA Saint Petersburg (KHL) *
F Ivan Telegin, CSKA Moscow (KHL) *
F Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues