MOSCOW, September 26 (RIA Novosti)
The KHL has imposed a temporary ban on NHL No. 1 draft pick Nail Yakupov, preventing him from playing for lockout team Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk until an investigation into the forward is resolved, the league said Wednesday.
The KHL statement said the 18-year-old starlet, who has already made two appearances for Neftekhimik after his lockout contract was reigstered last Thursday, can not take to the ice again under the International Ice Hockey Federation has given the all-clear.
Contacted by R-Sport, the IIHF could not immediately clarify the nature of the probe into Yakupov, though it may involve objections from his NHL team the Edmonton Oilers over his participation in the Russian-based league.
The return of the starlet forward to Russia was hampered by Edmonton, which intended to send him to Canadian major junior team Sarnia Sting, where he had racked up 170 points in 107 games before being drafted.
Yakupov was one of three Russians to appear in the first round of the draft, the strongest showing by the country since 2001, when forward Ilya Kovalchuk became No. 1 overall pick for the Atlanta Thrashers, center Alexander Svitov was third, selected by Tampa Bay, and winger Stanislav Chistov was fifth, going to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Neftekhimik, placed third in the Eastern Conference, lost both its matches starring Yakupov: 3-1 to Traktor Chelyabinsk and 7-2 to Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).