Matvei Michkov contended with Connor Bedard to be the top pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. After the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery, the Chicago Blackhawks were awarded the first overall pick, sitting in the driver’s seat on the road to Bedard.
Still likely to be taken in the top 10, Michkov slipped in the pre-draft rankings. A minor injury and uncontrollable variables outside of his control affected his draft stock.
Ahead of the 2022-2023 season, geopolitical issues affected Russian players. Michkov didn’t play in the 2023 World Junior Championship due to the ban on Russia. Bedard, Adam Fantilli, and Leo Carlsson all competed. In 2021, Michkov competed in the U18 World Junior Championship. He totaled 16 points (12G, 4A) in seven games, finishing ahead of Bedard and Shane Wright as the leading scorer of the tournament.
Teams may be wary of Michkov because he is under contract with SKA Saint Petersburg through 2025-2026. It won’t be until the 2026-2027 season that Michkov, who will be 21 years old, will be able to transition to the NHL. That could turn away a GM because there isn’t a guarantee Michkov will be able to come to the NHL at all.
The Philadelphia Flyers understand that situation, coming to terms with the likelihood that Ivan Fedotov might not ever arrive at Broad Street.
NHL Superstar Potential
The Flyers own the seventh overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Starting a rebuild, the selected player will be a critical piece of the franchise moving forward. Teams might hesitate to draft Michkov, but Daniel Briere should take the risk, drafting him if he slips into his grip.
Based purely on talent, Michkov should not fall to the Flyers. He should likely be the second overall based on skill, over Fantilli.
Michkov has NHL superstar potential. On loan with HK Sochi in the KHL, Michkov scored 20 points (9G, 11A) in 27 games. He had the highest point-per-game average on the roster and is only 18 years old.
Throughout his career, Michkov dominated Russia. In 2019-2020, he broke the century mark with 109 points (70G, 39A) in 26 games with Lokomotiv-2004 Yaroslavl U16. In the MHL, he tallied 90 points (57G, 33A) in 72 games over two seasons.
Take the Risk
Issues surrounding the geopolitical issues and Russian players are very real. A lot can change in the world within three years, and the timeline for Michkov to make his transition to the NHL fits the Flyers’ rebuild timeline.
Waiting until 2026-2027 for Michkov shouldn’t be a concern for the Flyers. Over the next three seasons, they’ll still be rebuilding, maybe flirting with a potential postseason berth. Stashing draft picks, drafting high-end talent, prospect development, and finding the missing contending pieces is the main priority.
If he is able to make the trek to North America after his contract expires with SKA Saint Petersburg, the Flyers will be closer to contending again after years of guidance under John Tortorella.
Michkov can be the final piece to push the Flyers back into Stanley Cup contention after the rebuild. There isn’t a true game-changer on the roster. Michkov has a talent profile that hosts every offensive tool a team could want and could become the superstar missing in Philadelphia since Eric Lindros.
It is a high-risk, high-reward decision with supreme draft capital, but the reward outweighs the risk by a long shot. If no team after the Blackhawks selects Michkov, the Flyers must jump on the opportunity and draft a potential NHL, and franchise-changing, superstar.
(Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)