This year's NHL No. 1 draft pick Nail Yakupov has been suspended from playing in the KHL because Hockey Canada did not sign off on his transfer to the Russian-based league, the International Ice Hockey Federation said Thursday.
After the 18-year-old budding star played two games for his boyhood team Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk last week, the KHL announced on Wednesday he could not continue until an IIHF probe into the transfer was resolved.
"Nail Yakupov has played two games for the KHL Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk without an approved International Transfer Card," the IIHF said in a statement.
"The ITC was not signed by Hockey Canada and was thus not approved by the IIHF. Playing without an approved ITC following an international transfer request is a breach of IIHF transfer regulations," it continued.
"Until appeal procedures are complete and a decision regarding his transfer to Russia is made, an ITC will not be approved or denied by the IIHF."
The Russian Hockey Federation has been issued a small fine of $5,000 and told it has a week to appeal the decision, the IIHF said.
The return of the forward to Russia was hampered by his parent club the Edmonton Oilers, which had 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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