Photo: Vedran Galijas / JUSTPICTURES.CH
We initiated our coverage of the upcoming 2023 NHL Entry Draft last week with the first in a series of draft prospect profiles. We began with profiles of Colby Barlow (here) and Dalibor Dvorsky (Here).
Next up is Russian sensation Matvei Michkov, who’s projected draft ranking has fluctuated in recent days, and has even been projected to go to the Capitals by The Athletic’s Cory Pronman.
MATVEI MICHKOV – (18) – 5’10” – 148LBS, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
There are so many storylines surrounding the electrifying forward, who is the ultimate wild card in this whole draft. Michkov had been projected to go No. 2 behind Connor Bedard, but his stock has fallen in recent days. Some say it’s because his KHL contract lasts until 2026 while others have expressed overall skepticism in drafting Russian players. At this point, it’s all conjecture.
The Montreal Canadiens are one of the teams that have been backing away from Michkov because of his contract situation. They see the upside in him, but there is no guarantee that he comes overseas to start his development once he is drafted.
Michkov also has been dealing with personal issues. In April, it was reported that his father was found dead in a pond at age 51. Before these issues popped up, the 18-year-old phenom was widely regarded as the next Alex Ovechkin.
Even if Michkov is not selected in the Top 5, he is going to go in the Top 10. He had 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) with HK Sochi this season in 27 games, which is respectable performance on a bad team. Sochi was last in the Bobrov Division of the KHL going 11-57.
The Perm, native blossomed in last year’s Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, where he racked up 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in just five games for the U18 Russian national squad, which led the entire tournament.
Michkov’s strongest asset is his shot. He has a very quick release and is very good at shooting through traffic in front of the net. A big reason why his release is excellent in front of the net is his stickhandling ability. Michkov has the puck on a string and he can weave through traffic with ease. He even had the confidence to pull off a lacrosse goal against the Kunlun Red Star.
The big area of required improvement for Michkov is his play in the defensive zone. He is sometimes careless with the puck in his own end and is slow on the backcheck.
If Michkov falls to No. 8, he is pretty much a lock to come to Washington. Despite the speculation surrounding Russian players, the Caps have shown that they are not afraid to draft them. Last year, the Caps selected Russian forward Ivan Miroshnichenko with the 20th overall selection. Miroshnichenko was regarded as a steal in last year’s draft and Michkov could be labeled as the same the longer he goes undrafted.
What makes Michkov stand out are his puck skills and overall intelligence on the ice. He is a highly creative player, and that allows him to create space for himself and his teammates in various situations. He can stickhandle his way out of trouble, and the puck can sometimes seem to be glued to his stick as he works his way around the offensive zone. He anticipates the play well, and can attack an open seam with a wicked shot or a pass with pin-point precision.
Corey Pronman: The Athletic (8th overall)
I think this is the alleyway where a Michkov pick becomes realistic, plus or minus one or two picks. In very early discussions with people around the league on him, Washington or Detroit are considered the betting favorites for his landing spot. Does anyone really have a clue though? No. He could be long gone by this pick, or possibly he could drop further.
Scott Wheeler: The Athletic (3rd overall)
Michkov is, without question or hesitation, the best prospect I’ve ever ranked at No. 3 in advance of any draft and the best Russian prospect since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin back in 2004…. Michkov’s brilliance comes primarily from his ability to make his decisions quickly and execute on them with incredible proficiency, whether that’s ripping a patterned shot (his one-timer, his standstill wrister, his curl-and-drag, etc.), a quick move into a pass, a sudden stop-up, or an attacking cut.
Elite Prospects: 4
Craig Button: 4
Daily Faceoff: 3
NHL Central scouting: 2 (among EU skaters)
By Jacob Cheris
I would be shocked if we got him at 8 and thus, would like to see the Caps trade up but offering 2 seconds or perhaps even Kutzy. I think we end up with either Oliver Moore or Dembaicher.
Agree with your take, and thus, was very surprised by Cory Pronman’s mock saying he will go to caps.
Michkov falling to 6 is believable for me. Arizona take our 8th pick, Mantha, and something else with us moving up to snag him at 6 would be a perfect draft in my book!
I’d go get him. Trade whatever 2nd round pick, 2nd and 3rd.. but I’d jump up and get him. Either that or hope he falls to 8. If he doesn’t then someone like Benson or Dalibor Dvorsky
“…the next Alex Ovechkin” ???
Not at 5’10” (maybe) and 147 lbs at age 18. Alex was probably Michkov’s size at age 12.
That’s not to say Michkov won’t be a great player. But Alex Ovechkin is a one-of-a-kind player that we are lucky to have had a chance to watch and cheer for over the past 20 years or so.
If Michkov falls to the Caps, they will undoubtedly pick him. However, would they be getting not another Ovechkin, but instead another Kuznetsov? A kid with huge talent but who fell to the Caps due in part to a perceived unwillingness to work hard enough to become a consistently great, 200-ft NHL player?
There are reasons why uber-talented Russian kids fall in the NHL draft. Sometimes it’s just because they are Russian, and won’t be within team control for years. Sometimes it’s because they are Russian, won’t be within team control and have cancer. Sometimes it’s because they are Russian, won’t be within team control and have personal red flags that should be taken seriously.
As we’ve been discussing on this site over the past week, the Caps canNOT afford to miss on this pick. If the questions about Michkov are significant personal red flags, I’d rather they choose a guy with a slightly lower ceiling but a much higher floor. The good news is that this draft is deep enough that there should be guys after the first few picks that have pretty high ceilings and floors. The Caps shouldn’t have to take a big chance on a player if there is more to the issues than just “he’s Russian”.
I agree with you i that I think more Kuzy with this kid than I do Ovie. Sorry but waiting for him to come over until 2026 to play is just wasted years. This team can not afford to miss on this pick and thus like you said ” I’d rather they choose a guy with a slightly lower ceiling but a much higher floor..” They cant afford to take chances on Russian players who don’t have size (148 pounds!!) or several years on their KHL contract.
Just a month ago, Bedard and Mitchkov were neck and neck in overall ability with Bedard getting the nod because he’s a center and he’s here. No one has diminished his rating; it’s just that the onerous contract is too much for some teams to forego sure fire stars they can have now. Still, I think we might well trade up just in case with Arizona in a win-win for both teams. And, if Mitchkov is off the board, wouldn’t it be a good idea for the Caps to trade down, maybe to get two first rounders in the bottom half? Maybe Chicago will do that dance. It seems to be a deep draft with a lot of high ceiling players even there.
Detroit, Montreal, San Jose and St. Louis also have multiple 1st rounders this year, so I think a trade down by the Caps for a lower pick in the first and either a high second this year or a first next year is possible depending on how the first 7 picks go. If they have to “sweeten”? the deal by throwing in Mantha, I doubt too many people around here would object… 🙂
Recall a press conference by GM George McPhee, telling assembled reporters regarding a missing Kuznetsov: “We’ve all heard of him but have never seen him. Just like the Loch Ness Monster …”
NHL Final Four VGK, DAL, CAR, FLA
CAR got there with major injuries to three top players. All four teams played with more inspiration than our guys did this year. Caps Management: Take Notes!
Here’s what I hear about Michkov. I don’t follow or watch the KHL (OK, maybe one or two games or a few periods toward their Cup Finals), but I do take a look at the standings and maybe read some articles every once in a while. He couldn’t establish himself at one of KHL’s top clubs, the SKA, which is managed by a very eccentric member of a billionaire family, and who has also taken it on himself to become the head coach (young guy, early 40s, and very successful as a coach, which was very surprising). So, Michkov fell out with the owner/HC, don’t know what that was over, his weak performance and being sent to their youth affiliate, or some personal spat. Whatever it was, he was “relegated” (or given another chance?) in Sochi, which is heavily rumored to be SKA’s farm club, but playing in the same KHL league. It was pathetically hopeless, and then Michkov sparked some life, so at least they stopped being the Caps in their early years)) Now I don’t think SKA is too eager to hold onto him (given their spat of unknown origin), or that Sochi would try to force him to stay for as long as possible. Sochi’s got the money to find a replacement or a group of talented players at reasonable cost. He might, of course, improve so much that either Sochi or even SKA would want to hang on to him, but… something tells me that eccentric owner/HC or his family would not start causing trouble if he wants to leave before his contract expires. They’re fairly sensible when it comes to young players’ career paths, and are shrewd businessmen, from what I gather. I hope this is helpful)
Thanks Andrew777dc! Excellent analysis and new information!
Every Russian has “a story.” I’m half Russian, so I know
I don’t know if you’re a bit too down on Russian players) There’s a lot of excellent players coming out of Russia, with no known mood swing or work ethic issues, or strings attached. Think: Kaprizov, Orlov, Kuzmenko, Gavrikov, list goes on. Talented workhorses many of them are (sorry for the expression :)) And then there’s Russian goalies, a class of their own. I still regret the Caps let Samsonov go, the same with Vitek. It seems mgmt and coaching staff got too hung up on the idea of that “clear cut No. 1”, ending up kicking them out. And look what they’ve become! Yes, their stats were not exactly pretty, but honestly, was Caps’ defense there to help them?
Both are not ideal, and Vitek was not himself in the playoffs, but still, such growth and consistency… think we’re gonna regret this for years to come…
Yeah, there’s also Kuzy, Kravtsov, Gusev, and so on, some head cases among them. But just the same, there’s Vrana, Price, Mantha (evidently), etc. Of course, if they’re under contract for X number of years, in a market outside North America, that’s always a concern (no control). I agree we can’t miss with this pick, and I think we can’t afford to keep losing for too long, waiting for picks and other “kids” to mature as players. Have to find someone NHL-ready in no more than 1-2 years, in my opinion
You Are Spot On: Kicking out the kid Goalies!
That spasm of knee-jerk-management smacked of “blame,” i.e. our disastrous five seasons since the Stanley Cup were because our Children goalies weren’t getting it done! Both Reirden and Pete put lots of players out-to-pasture — when the real problem was themselves – unsuccessful coaching
Caps Management really needs this service, advertised in the “etsy” internet site:
“Personalized Exorcism Service – Cleanse and Protect from Negative Energies and Spirits!!
Free yourself from unwanted spirits, malevolent energies, or negative influences with a Powerful Exorcism Service tailored to your unique needs. I’m dedicated to helping cleanse and protect your energy, addressing any negative entities or energies that may be affecting your physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual well-being. Each exorcism is customized, providing a safe and compassionate space for you to explore your innermost thoughts and feelings. ….” And the ad goes on for 3 more paragraphs!
It’s worth a try
If we are going to move up in the draft (and I am for that in the right situation), we need a player who can play in the NHL within 12 months. Maybe on the opening night roster and maybe in AHL with call-up or one year in Juniors. Need to be in the top 4-5 to get that.
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