The Sudbury Wolves will be down a defenceman heading into Friday night's game — and for the remainder of the season — after import player Stefan Stepanov was suspended from the team and returned to Russia Wednesday.
During the team's road trip over the weekend, an unknown off-ice incident, involving both Stepanov and fellow import draft pick Eddie Leitans-Rinke, resulted in Stepanov being indefinitely suspended. Leitans-Rinke was suspended from Monday afternoon's game against the Windsor Spitfires and for the three games this weekend. He is expected to return to the line-up Oct. 19.
Head coach Bryan Verrault would not comment on the nature of the incident but said it is something the organization has dealt with.
“Rules are rules and disciplinary action had to be taken. We want to make sure that's always in place here.”
Stepanov was the Wolves' first selection in the 2009 CHL Import Draft, and came to the team with high praise from the international community, according to the Wolves website. The 6-0, 175 lb blue-liner was a key member of the Russian Under 20 team in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament this summer.
At the time of the draft, the Moscow native was being touted as a smooth skater with good offensive instincts, and all the makings “of a very good offensive defenceman.” Stepanov would not have been NHL draft eligible until 2011.
Verrault said the team will be affected this weekend by the holes left in the line-up as a result of the two suspensions, however, he said it is an opportunity for the remaining players to take their game to the next level.
“We may be a little short for players for this weekend but it's going to give the other players the opportunity to step up and to play a higher level to make sure they contribute with the team.”