Flyers’ Michkov, Gauthier reflect versatility in development

Flyers' Matvei Michkov
Matvei Michkov poses with a Philadelphia Flyers jersey after being picked by the team during the first round of the NHL hockey draft Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Daniel Briere took the stage to announce the Philadelphia Flyers first round, seventh-overall pick at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, and everyone took a deep breath and braced themselves for anything.

One prospect on the draft board stood out in particular. Briere committed to the rebuild the day he accepted his role as general manager. So, one question he had to consider was, ‘which player would best help the Flyers’ rebuild?’

Matvei Michkov was the selection. The Flyers, debatably, won the draft lottery.

Flyers' Matvei Michkov
Matvei Michkov adjusts his Philadelphia Flyers hat after being picked by the team during the first round of the NHL hockey draft Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

His compared stats at the 2021 U18 World Juniors to the top selection of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, Connor Bedard, creates a little discussion that Michkov could contest the top of the class. Since then, Bedard featured in more WHL and World Junior Championship games than Michkov did in the KHL, MHL, VHL, or internationally. Bedard will start with the Chicago Blackhawks this season. Michkov will stay in the KHL through 2025-2026, giving Briere time to craft a roster for John Tortorella to build a competitive lineup.

Now, Michkov is participating in the KHL Preseason. He had a goal and an assist in his first start, but that isn’t the lasting impact. Michkov is typically an RW. In his 2023 preseason opener, he excelled as a C. Who knows if the KHL is pushing him to maintain a C presence, but it would be an absolute positive for the Flyers, who already have terrific future depth in development or on the roster.

Currently, the Flyers’ depth at C consists of Sean Couturier, Noah Cates, Scott Laughton, and Ryan Poehling. Morgan Frost hasn’t agreed to a contract extension. If Frost doesn’t sign an extension and Tortorella wants Laughton to remain at LW, Tanner Laczynski or Elliot Desnoyers become options to fill in the bottom six.

Michkov is already pleasantly surprisingly versatile in the KHL. Another prospect in the Flyers’ system, Cutter Gauthier, is taking on more C responsibilities at Boston College. Gauthier averaged more than a point per game in the 2023 U20 World Juniors and his first season at Boston College. At the 2023 Worlds, Gauthier nearly matched a point-per-game pace, scoring nine points (7G, 2A) in 10GP.

Flyers' Cutter Gauthier
MADISON, WI – DECEMBER 02: U-18 forward Cutter Gauthier (19) during a college hockey match between the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the U.S. National Under-18 Team on December 2, 2021, at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI. (Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire)

The 2023 World Juniors Summer Showcase will conclude, and in the finale, Gauthier will align with Devin Kaplan and Cole Knuble on Team White. They’ll battle Finland at 4pm. In a climate where skaters are under evaluation for a spot at the 2024 World Juniors, Gauthier is doing a fine job after taking a break from a long year of hockey. He contributed four points (3G, 1A) in the first three games. Suddenly, the Flyers have two versatile, highly talented prospects who resemble the future.

“All the tools are there, and the shot was outstanding, which we know. He looks bigger, stronger, and moving quicker than a lot of the other players. It’s interesting to see how he has developed. He looks outstanding.”

Keith Jones; 8/2/2023

Gauthier and Michkov can score or make plays as highly skilled producers on offense. Tortorella will have the luxury of matching them up in the lineup, unleashing scorers like Travis Konecny, Owen Tippett, and Tyson Foerster.

Some might consider this an overreaction, and sure, Michkov played one game at C, but if he does mature his game away from the puck in the KHL, then imagine how NHL-ready he will be when he arrives in Philadelphia in 2026-2027.

Briere and Tortorella will observe how Gauthier performs at C once he eventually signs his entry-level contract to join the club. He could arrive toward the end of the upcoming season to get a glimpse of the NHL. That’ll give the Flyers two seasons to mold Gauthier with Cates, Konecny, Foerster, Laughton, and Joel Farabee

Trades, including some of those names, will present the Flyers with needed draft capital for the earlier rounds in 2025 and 2026. It would be the best plan to generate cap space and accentuate the impact of each selection, but Briere won’t be chaotically aggressive. Michkov will be here with at least Gauthier, Foerster, Cates, and whoever else arrives via trade, free agency, or drafting. Ivan Demidov at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft makes a ton of sense, and he is a teammate with Michkov in the KHL. 

A youth-enriched Flyers franchise is the ideal picture when Michkov takes to the ice in Philadelphia for the 2026-2027 season.

“I guess that means we’re gonna’ start winning when I get here.”

Matvei Michkov; 6/28/2023

Briere complemented the fifth overall selection from the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, where Chuck Fletcher chose Gauthier. Michkov only wanted to play for the Flyers, and that will probably rub off on teammates in the KHL and the NHL.

(AP Photo/George Walker IV)