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Author: Karen Price (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)Date: 06/22/2004
Malkin initially denied entry to U.S.

Russian center Evgeni Malkin will no doubt be a little bit nervous when the NHL Entry Draft begins Saturday, but maybe not as much as he will be this morning.
That's when the No. 2 ranked player in the draft and his family will arrive at the United States Embassy in Moscow to pick up their entry visas into the country. After being rejected Friday, they probably won't be happy until the paperwork is in their hands and they're on the plane to New York.

"He is very excited but at the same time, very nervous," agent Dmitri Goryachkin said Monday. "We had a little problem with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. It was a nightmare."

Goryachkin said that all the paperwork necessary for Malkin, his parents and brother to enter the country was submitted by late May. The Malkins' interviews at the embassy were scheduled for Friday, but when they arrived there after traveling for three hours, they were told that some of the paperwork had either been misplaced or was lost.

None of them had been granted a visa.

"They were told that because of tighter security, the embassy could not (grant them visas)," Goryachkin said. "Obviously, his mother was crying. It was not a pretty sight."

Goryachkin, who works for IMG, resubmitted all the documents over the weekend and the paperwork landed in the hands of Nicholas Namba. A hockey and general sports fan, Namba recognized IMG as the agency that represented Wayne Gretzky and Tiger Woods. Goryachkin believes it helped.

Late yesterday afternoon, or almost midnight in Russia, Goryachkin was told that the visas had been granted and that all the Malkin family had to do was pick them up on the way to the airport this morning.

"He helped us greatly," Goryachkin said of Namba. "We were very grateful of the staff who considered all the circumstances and were able to help the family to enjoy one of brightest moments in an athlete's career."

Malkin, 17, whom the Penguins are expected to draft at the No. 2 overall position, and his family are due to arrive in New York this afternoon before continuing on to Raleigh, N.C., where the draft will be held this weekend.

Malkin skipped the NHL combine in Toronto last month, not because of visa problems but because his team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, was holding postseason training in Turkey. He has interviews scheduled with 14 different NHL teams before Saturday, including one with the Penguins on Wednesday.

The Washington Capitals hold the first overall pick and are expected to select fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin. However, one NHL head scout who wished to remain anonymous said yesterday that his team is actively trying to trade up to draft either first or second. He believes that there are roughly eight other teams looking to trade up to one of the top two spots.

"They are two pretty special players," he said of Ovechkin and Malkin.

The Chicago Blackhawks, who draft third, confirmed late last week that they are aggressively trying to acquire the first pick from the Capitals in order to select Ovechkin.



Karen Price can be reached at kprice@tribweb.com.

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