Matvei Michkov is coming to Philadelphia: Looking back on his historic 2024 KHL Season

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)

Following his selection as the 7th overall selection at the 2023 NHL Draft, Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matvei Michkov returned to the Kontinental Hockey League, or KHL, to honor his contractual commitments to St. Petersberg SKA. The KHL is Russia’s top men’s hockey division and is largely considered the second-best hockey league in the world. SKA’s dominance in the KHL would rival the NFL’s New England Patriots dynasty under the leadership of the quarterback who lost Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles, Tom Brady.

During the last part of 2023, the young Russian faced tremendous amounts of adversity between his handling by SKA in the early part of the season and a bout with pneumonia in early winter that would cost the teen his first KHL All-Star appearance. For an edge dose of disappointment, the KHL All-Star Skills Show was held on Michkov’s 19th birthday (Dec. 9th).

Six months later, the mood has changed immensely for Matvei Michkov. Philly Sports Network’s Haley Taylor Simon reported that the wheels are in motion for Michkov to join Philadelphia this summer! With that news, let’s take a look back at Matvei Michkov’s season that prepared him for NHL duty in Philly. 

Flyers' Matvei Michkovn 2021 IIHF World Juniors
FILE – Canada’s Ryan O’Rourke (28) is checked by Russia’s Matvei Michkov (17) during the first period of an IIHF world junior hockey championships exhibition game in Edmonton, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Michkov might be the best prospect out of Russia in nearly a decade. He might be the best since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in 2005. But Michkov still is no lock to get drafted in the top five because he’s still under contract in the KHL for three more seasons. That’s giving NHL teams reason to worry he might never make it to North America. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Extremely Limited Opportunity in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg SKA seemed pretty set on not seriously allowing Matvei Michkov to compete for their team in 2023-24. Michkov, typically a winger, was given out-of-position duties at center, scoring a goal and averaging a point per game. Yet, the young forward was left off the starting lineups in the early KHL season by SKA. Michkov’s one game for the squad was a nothing-burger of an appearance due to limited six minutes of ice time. 

In September, St. Petersburg announced a “mutual decision” to send Matvei back to the city where his 51-year-old father passed away under questionable circumstances less than a year prior. For Michkov, this would essentially be the equivalent of the Flyers loaning Matvei to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, although he would still compete in the same league as SKA.  

Michkov Loaned Back to KHL’s Sochi

Matvei Michkov conducted business like a professional returning to Italy for the remainder of the 2023-24 KHL season. He posted 14 points in his first 14 games before coming down with pneumonia that would complicate his fitness for the remainder of his season. The illness would cost him almost the entire month of December including that marquee KHL All-Star game. Michkov would still appear and wave his jersey to the crowd, but he was not healthy enough to participate in the game the teenager was selected for. 

On December 12, 2023, Matvei took to Instagram to announce his return to Sochi’s practice routine with a dazzling skating and stick-handling display that had Flyers fans wishing for a Christmas Miracle that Michkov could arrive before the end of his SKA contract in 2026.  

Mad Russian Returns To Leopards For the Rest of the Season

Matvei Michkov returned to Sochi’s lineup before the calendar flipped over to the New Year. Michkov skated in 33 more games to finish the Sochi Leopards season, who finished with a 23-45 record. Despite appearing in a limited number of games, Matvei still led Sochi in goals while placing second on the team in points. Michkov’s 41 points ranked 40th overall on the KHL leaderboard despite playing almost 20 games less than most of his peers during the season. 

These may or may not be impressive numbers to you, dear reader. However, the 19-year-old shattered KHL records despite missing time. No player has posted more goals (19), assists (22), or points (41) at the KHL level in the season following their selection in the NHL draft the year before.

Following a season in which he battled illness as well as assignment to an inferior team, it will certainly be interesting to see what Matvei Michkov can do this fall at the NHL level in Philadelphia with a squad on the brink of a postseason appearance last season. 

AP Photo/George Walker IV