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‘Yotes Notes: Russian hunting, no NHL Draft decision yet for Tkachuk

Ilya Lyubushkin, left, of Russia and Carl Klingberg of Sweden fight for the puck during the Euro Hockey Tour Karjala Tournament match between Sweden and Russia in Helsinki, Finland, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva via AP)

The Coyotes have interest in 24-year-old Russian defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin, a source familiar with the situation confirmed on Wednesday, but reports that the sides are close to signing a contract are premature.

Lyubushkin is still under contract with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the Kontinental Hockey League. The terms of that contract are not yet clear.

Lyubushkin, 6-foot-2, 194 pounds, is considered a defensive defenseman who is sound in his own end, good on the puck and plays a physical game.

His offensive skills are limited. He had three goals and nine points in 50 games this season, but scouts believe he makes a good first pass out of the defensive zone, he has no skating issues and he can contribute secondary offense.

Lyubushkin is a right-handed defenseman. Luke Schenn is an unrestricted free agent so Jason Demers is the only-right-handed defenseman the Coyotes have under contract at the NHL level. If the Coyotes sign Lyubushkin, it would be to an entry-level contract. He turned 24 on April 6.

TKACHUK’S DECISION

Multiple outlets reported this week that forward Brady Tkachuk would return to Boston University for his sophomore season instead of turning pro, but his father, former Coyote Keith Tkachuk, countered those reports on Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t say a decision has been made yet either way,” Keith Tkachuk said. “We just haven’t really discussed it yet. We will wait until after the draft before a decision is made.”

Brady Tkachuk is widely considered a top-10 pick for the 2018 NHL Draft, which will take place at American Airlines Center in Dallas from June 22-23.

Some projections have him taken as high as No. 3. The Coyotes own the No. 5 pick in the draft.

WORLD CHAMPIONHIP UPDATE

Heading into a game against Austria on Wednesday night, Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a goal, an assist and a plus-6 rating for undefeated Sweden (3-0) at the IIHF World Championship in Denmark. Sweden was tied for first place with Russia in the Group A standings with wins over Belarus, the Czech Republic and France.

Ekman-Larsson garnered laughs when tried on 80s-era equipment at the tournament and tried to practice in it. You can watch it in this hilarious video.

The other Coyote in the World Championship is backup goalie Darcy Kuemper, who is playing for Canada. Kuemper has appeared in one game, stopping 19 of 23 shots, and four of six in a 5-4 shootout loss to the United States on May 4.

LOOSE PUCKS

— If the Nashville Predators win Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Winnipeg Jets at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, it would mark the first time in NHL history that four division winners advanced to the conference finals, the Elias Sports Bureau confirmed. The NHL was comprised of either one or two divisions until it split into four for the 1974-75 season, so the fact isn’t quite as dramatic as it seems at first glance. Even so, this could be the first time in 43 seasons of at least four divisions that four winners could comprise the final four.

— The Tucson Roadrunners resume their best-of-seven, Western Conference semifinal series against the Texas Stars on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Cedar Park, Texas. The Stars lead the series 2-1 after a 5-4 overtime win on Monday in Texas.

— When the Coyotes announced last week that they would not renew assistant general manager Chris O’Hearn’s contract, GM John Chayka said the management staff was still reviewing its hockey operations department before deciding if it would fill the spot. If they do fill it at some point, one possibility is Coyotes director of hockey operations Jake Goldberg. The Coyotes hired Goldberg a year ago. He previously served as the assistant general manager for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Goldberg took part in the trade conference call with the NHL when the Coyotes acquired Marcus Kruger from Carolina for Jordan Martinook last week.

— Memo to Coyotes fans on that Phil Kessel-to-Arizona speculation. It’s not happening.