It’s fair to say that Matvei Michkov is one of the most interesting draft prospects in recent memory. His combination of elite generational skill combined with massive off-ice risks make him one of the biggest high-risk, high-reward picks in NHL draft history.
Michkov isn’t on the same level as Connor Bedard, but he’s a lot closer than most people think. Whoever lands him could be looking at a future franchise player. He’s arguably the best Russian prospect since Alexander Ovechkin all the way back in 2004.
Who is Matvei Michkov?
|Matvei Michkov||LW/RW||L||5’10” / 178 cm||172 lbs / 84 kg|
Michkov was born on December 9, 2004, meaning he was only a couple months away from being eligible for the 2022 NHL draft. He was born in Russia and has played in Russia at every level thus far in his young career.
A massive caveat with Michkov is that he’s currently under contract in the KHL through the 2025–26 season meaning the first season he could play in the NHL would be 2026–27 when he is 21 years old.
Michkov’s on-ice production
Michkov has posted historic numbers at pretty much level he’s played at, setting records every year along the way.
|2018–19||D-4||Russia U16||Lokomotiv-2004 Yaroslavl U16||7||7||3||10|
|2019–20||D-3||Russia U16||Lokomotiv-2004 Yaroslavl U16||26||70||39||109|
|2020–21||D-2||MHL||SKA-1946 St. Petersburg||50||35||17||52|
|MHL||SKA-Varyagi St. Petersburg||6||3||1||4|
|2021–22||D-1||MHL||SKA-1946 St. Petersburg||22||22||16||38|
|MHL||SKA-Varyagi St. Petersburg||6||8||5||13|
|KHL||SKA St. Petersburg||13||2||3||5|
|2022–23||D+0||KHL||HK Sochi (loan)||27||9||11||20|
|VHL||SKA-Neva St. Petersburg||12||10||4||14|
Michkov made his debut in 2018–19 in Russia’s U16 league as a 14-year-old. He only got into seven games but posted 10 points. Not bad for a 14-year-old playing a year up. The following season is where Michkov really jumped onto the scene, as a 15-year-old in the same U16 league, he racked up 70 goals and 109 points in just 26 games. His 4.19 points per game is the all-time league record among players with at least 25 games played.
The following 2020–21 season, his D-2 year, Michkov made the jump to the MHL which is Russia’s third league under the VHL and KHL. Overall Michkov posted 56 points in 56 games. The total is an MHL record for D-2 players, topping Nikita Kucherov’s 54 points from 2009–10.
Last season Michkov spent time in the MHL and made his KHL debut at 17 years old. In the MHL he posted 51 points in 28 games. His 1.82 points per game led the league among players with at least 25 games played and is also the MHL record for D-1 players. He also led his team to an MHL championship with 13 goals and 17 points in 17 playoff games.
Michkov suited up for 13 games in the KHL as well last season and posted five points in 13 games. It’s not a huge sample size, but his 0.38 points per game is a KHL record for D-1 players.
This most recent season Michkov split his time between Russia’s second tier league the VHL and the KHL. Unfortunately he suffered an injury early in the season that limited him to just 39 games. In the VHL he posted 14 points in 12 games. Again a small sample size but his 1.17 points per game is a VHL record for D+0 players.
In the KHL he posted 20 points in 27 games for the league worst HK Sochi. His 0.74 points per game with Sochi is the highest points per game by an under-19 player in KHL history, topping names like Vladamir Tarasenko, Artemi Panarin, and Kirill Kaprizov.
Michkov has also represented Russia at pretty much every age and in particular posted 16 points in seven games at the 2021 U18 World Championships, topping both Connor Bedard and Shane Wright that year. He also put home three goals in two games at the cancelled 2022 World Juniors. Unfortunately due to injury, he missed the 2023 World Juniors.
Matvei Michkov’s strengths
Michkov has one of the most dynamic skillsets of any players in the draft from the past decade. He’s an absolute weapon in the offensive zone and carries an offensive toolkit that’s second to only Bedard in the 2023 draft. He’s just such a creative player with the puck.
His main strength is his world class hockey IQ. He simply sees the ice better than 99% of players do which makes him a threat every time he’s in the offensive zone. He’s not the biggest player standing at 5’10” and he isn’t the fastest player around, but he uses his hockey IQ and vision to constantly open up space and generate scoring chances for himself and his teammates. The way he thinks the game is second to none, at any age.
On top of his IQ, he’s also incredibly skilled with the puck. He has elite hands and is the type of player that can make dazzling plays looks routine. Anytime he has the puck on his stick in the offensive zone there’s a good chance he’ll make a play, as he combines his elite puck skills with a mature patience with the puck.
Michkov has the tools to be a playmaker, but he’s also an elite finisher and will no doubt score a ton of goals at the next level. His shot is not at the level of Bedard’s (few are) but he’s still one of the best shooters in the 2023 draft. He also combines his elite IQ to make sure he’s always in a good spot and in open ice without the puck. He’ll be a nightmare to deal with on the power play.
Matvei Michkov’s areas of improvement
Unsurprisingly, defence isn’t a strength of Michkov’s. He’s not exactly the hardest working player defensively and like most players his age, he tends to focus more on offence at the expense of defence. He’s typically the first player heading up ice and out of the defensive zone looking for offensive opportunities. It also doesn’t help his defensive game that he’s not the biggest player around.
Similar to other highly skilled players however he’s always lurking and ready to make a play at the other end as soon as the puck becomes available. Using his elite IQ, he’s able to anticipate and read plays at times in the defensive zone.
I hate to be the type of person to knock a player’s size, but Michkov could certainly benefit from adding a few pounds before he makes the jump to the NHL. Luckily for him, he has years ahead to do so. He’s strong on his feet for his size, but he could certainly benefit from adding some size and strength to his frame. Once he bulks up he’ll become an ever more dominant player.
Something that would benefit Michkov as he gets older is utilizing his teammates more often. Yes, he’s exceptionally talented, but at times he tries to do too much with the puck and relies too much on his elite skill and ends up turning it over. His patience is a strength, but it can also be a weakness at times as he’ll wait too long for the perfect play and end up with nothing instead.
Matvei Michkov’s comparables
Michkov is such a hard player to pick a comparable for as his skillset is so unique. The closest NHL comparable would likely be fellow Russians Kucherov or Kaprizov but with more of a scoring touch.
Fit with the Flames
Michkov would obviously be a great fit the Flames. An elite goal scoring winger? The Flames have been looking for one of those since Jarome Iginla left. When he does come over to the NHL in a couple years, he would immediately jump onto the top line.
It’s very unlikely Michkov would fall to the Flames all the way at 16th overall. But the Flames could hit a stroke of luck and move up in the lottery. Given his contract status in the KHL as well as the current situation in Russia, it may scare a lot of teams off so it’s not completely impossible, but still very, very unlikely.
As mentioned, Michkov will be one of the most interesting prospects to follow going into the draft. Based on skill alone, he’d be an easy selection at second overall. Unfortunately due to a couple off-ice factors out of his control, his draft stock may fall considerably before draft night.
He’s the ultimate high-risk, high-reward pick. If he does end up falling in the draft and coming over to North America in a couple years, he could go down as one of the biggest draft steals in NHL history. The question is, who will take the gamble on him?
Projection: Elite, game-breaking winger
All TWC 2023 NHL Draft Profiles
Check out more of our individual player profiles of selected 2023 NHL Draft prospects:
Connor Bedard | Matvei Michkov | Adam Fantilli | Leo Carlsson | Zach Benson | Andrew Cristall | Oliver Moore | Will Smith | Ryan Leonard | Eduard Sale | Colby Barlow | Axel Sandin Pellikka | Dalibor Dvorsky | Brayden Yager | David Reinbacher | Nate Danielson | Riley Heidt | Matthew Wood | Quentin Musty | Mikhail Gulyayev | Calum Ritchie | Gabe Perrault | Jayden Perron | Ethan Gauthier | Dmitri Simashev | Samuel Honzek | Lukas Dragicevic | William Whitelaw
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