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The Matvei Michkov saga

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Liam Horrobin
11 months ago
Matvei Michkov is the most intriguing prospect outside Connor Bedard for the upcoming NHL Draft. He is a 2004 forward with a late birthday, arguably a top-three talent in the class.
He has dominated his opponents at World Championship tournaments, especially at the 2021 U18s held in Texas. In that tournament, Michkov led the way with 12 goals and 16 points in seven games, which also hosted future Canadian stars Shane Wright, Mason McTavish, and Bedard. The only thing the Canadians had over him that year was a gold medal.
Unfortunately,  with the current situation going on with Russia, fans have been deprived of watching the future star play at best-on-best tournaments. There was one opportunity, but it was cut short. Michkov was part of the last Russian team to play in a World Juniors; however, it was the 2022 tournament that was cut short due to COVID-19 problems. During the brief life of the event, Michkov shone brightly, scoring three goals in two games as a 16-year-old.
Outside of international competition, Michkov has already played games in the KHL, the highest professional league in Russia. He has 43 games played, split between SKA St Petersburg and HK Sochi, with 11 goals and 25 points. While his numbers don’t jump off the page, consider that he only turned 18 in December.

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While everything looks great on paper, the hiccup with Michkov is his contract. He is under contract with St. Petersburg until the 2025-26 season, which prevents him from leaving the KHL until then.
Frank Seravalli has this to say in May after the NHL draft lottery about the Michkov saga.
“I think he (Michkov) is the big mystery surrounding draft night. We know that (Connor) Bedard is going one to Chicago, (Adam) Fantilli very likely two to Anaheim and then the biggest question is not who goes three, but he takes the balls the size of a dump truck to take this guy (Michkov) who could be the second best player. But you are dealing with the contract issue which prevents him from coming to the NHL until 2027. Then also the political issues that come attached and related to Russia. Will there be the same path that exists? Russia has stood in the way of other draft picks and prospects coming over to North America, so will somebody have the courage to take him considering they might not be in that position when he gets here? That is a big bet to make if you are a general manager. You are supposed to have the best interest of the franchise at heart, but it is also always how do you make the team better so I can keep my job.” 
It is an obstacle that somebody will get around, but who? Frank mentioned that the top two picks look locked up with Bedard and Fantilli. The intrigue begins at the third overall pick with the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that invested heavily last summer but didn’t come close to making the playoffs. Jarmo Kekäläinen, a general manager of the Blue Jackets since 2013, may still have some life left there, but perhaps not long enough to see Michkov in a Columbus uniform.
San Jose at four and Montreal at five are two teams with new general managers who could have time to wait around for Michkov. Another layer to this, however, is the talent that will be available for them in those positions. Leo Carlson and Will Smith are two talents that could also be franchise alter and won’t bring the headache that Michkov’s situation would bring.
It feels likely that Michkov falls between the Arizona Coyotes at six and the Nashville Predators at 15. If he drops any lower than Nashville, then something crazy is going down.
There is another layer to this situation that Frank pointed out on the show too.
“The other part of the Matvei Michkov draft saga is that nobody has actual NHL eyeballs on this guy in years. If you do not have an NHL employee that is a scout living in Russia then you haven’t seen him play live. You can watch all the video you want, but for someone drafting at that prime of a position, you better be pretty certain. With that, none of the true decision-makers has had eyes on him”
If the situation were different for Michkov, we would be talking about a player coming into the NHL next season. Unfortunately, it is nothing close to what teams would have to deal with other prospects.
Whoever lands Michkov is getting great talent. Whenever he arrives in North America, fans will be amazed by the talent and entertainment he will bring to the ice.

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