On the day final World Cup rosters were released, Russia shocked everyone by adding Slava Voynov their roster. The former Los Angeles Kings defenseman is currently suspended by the NHL following a no contest plea to a domestic assault charge, which made Voynov’s addition by the Russian Hockey Federation surprising, but it doesn’t appear his inclusion on the roster will mean he’s playing at the tournament.
During his media availability ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, commissioner Gary Bettman said that Voynov, 26, will not be allowed to suit up at the World Cup because of his current suspension from play in the NHL. The World Cup is a tournament being put on by the NHL and NHLPA, thus the league and Players’ Association can make that ruling.
“He's been suspended from the league,” Bettman said when asked about Voynov. “The Russian Federation was told that he was not eligible to play in the World Cup. What happens from that moving forward in terms of what somebody may try to do is a different story. But his status has not changed.”
Voynov unceremoniously left the NHL ahead of the 2015-16 campaign, however, after entering a plea of no contest to a domestic violence charge stemming from an October 2014 incident. Following his July 2015 plea, Voynov was sentenced to 90 days in jail and was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement immediately upon his release from the Seal Beach Detention Center in California. Voynov then chose to voluntarily leave the US and return to Russia.
Upon Russia’s naming of Voynov to the club, it became apparent that including the defenseman on the roster would be an issue. Following the May 27 roster announcement, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it was “not (his) current expectation that (Voynov) will be deemed eligible to play in the World Cup of Hockey.” Bettman’s comments on the situation all but ensure Voynov’s ineligibility.
How the NHL and Russian Federation choose to proceed from here is unknown, however. In all likelihood, though, the solution will simply be that Voynov is left at home and a Russian blueliner will be added to the World Cup team and play at the tournament. Among notable Russian defensemen not to make the team are Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Zadorov, Evgeny Medvedev, Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Tryamkin.
Voynov was a member of the Russian World Championship team that won bronze at the 2016 tournament earlier this month. In 10 games, he scored one goal and three points while skating nearly 20 minutes per game. During his 190-game NHL career, all with the Kings, he managed 18 goals and 81 points while playing top-pairing minutes. So while Voynov’s skill level may be tough for Russia to replace, his off-ice actions make it a near certainty his spot will have to be filled ahead of the tournament.