Will the best Russian forward in this year’s draft, Matvei Michkov, drop to number 11 for the Canucks?
3 months ago
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Welcome back to our series here at CanucksArmy where we examine players who could be available to the Vancouver Canucks at 11th overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
We’ve previously broken down Swedish right-shot defenceman Axel Sandin Pellikka, last season’s youngest NCAA player, BC’s own, Matthew Wood, and Bo Horvat comparable, Slovakian centre Dalibor Dvorský. T-minus 21 days away from draft day, we’ll see the likelihood of Matvei Michkov — the top-rated Russian player in this year’s draft — ending up as the Canucks’ lucky number 11 selection.
Matvei Michkov, or as I like to call him, the Russian Connor Bedard, went toe to toe with this year’s unanimous number one draft pick at the 2021 U-18 World Championship and recorded 16 points in seven games (12 G, 4 A) — two more than Bedard, in as many games — to snag the tournament’s MVP award from the Canadian. After such a dominant showing just two years earlier, the narrative between Michkov and Bedard duking it for the top spot in this year’s draft was set into motion, but never came to fruition.
Earlier this season, Michkov, after recording limited ice time and being held scoreless in three games with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, was loaned to the organization’s second tier team, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg, where he recorded 14 points (10 G, 4 A) in 12 games. He then got into 27 games of KHL action on a loan with HK Sochi, recording 20 points (9 G, 11 A). While Michkov has said it’s his “dream to play in the NHL,” after signing a five-year contract in September 2020 in the KHL when hockey was at a standstill, Michkov won’t be able to make that dream a reality until the 2026 season.
Further complicating his situation is the war Russia is waging in Ukraine, after they invaded the country in February 2022. As a result, sanctions have been placed on Russian players at international competition, further plummeting Russian draft stock as scouts and teams alike haven’t been able to get a routine look at these overseas prospects. Elite Prospects rightfully questions if GMs have the job security to see through Michkov’s arrival to the NHL — if that ever does happen.
What the scouts are saying
David St-Louis, Elite Prospects: “Michkov needs to improve defensively. He’s not involved, not really helping, and only pretending half the time. He thinks of himself as only an offensive player. His skills in that facet of the game are unreal, so it’s pretty normal at this stage.”
J.D. Burke, Elite Prospects: “I don’t think there are any Selkes in Michkov’s future. That much seems certain. He cheats for offence so brazenly that he’s practically out of the frame when the puck is in the defensive zone. Even when he’s generous enough to enter the fray, he’s straight legged, late on switches, and putting in what one could generously describe as a rote effort at best.”
Cam Robinson, Elite Prospects: “In the defensive end, he is really good along the wall, but got a little chaotic in-zone when hemmed in. He also threw a couple of pucks away into the middle of the ice – seemingly a given every night. But the overall playmaking in his game and the instincts in the offensive end were all plus.”
Lassi Alanen, Elite Prospects: “Just consistently a threat in the offensive zone, one-touching pucks to the middle through pressure, flashing increased levels of deception and quick reads. Even some manipulation thrown in there. The delay game off the rush is starting to become more and more used and effective, entering along the boards, then slowing down while gliding to the middle, drawing in two defenders before making a drop pass to the trailer – just brilliant stuff.”
Corey Pronman, The Athletic: “He’s one of the most creative and intelligent offensive players I’ve seen in the last few years. He combines his incredible puck skills with a true elite goal-scoring instinct. He anticipates the play and attacks defenders differently than other forwards and always seems to find ways to figure into scoring chances despite not being the biggest or fastest. He can make plays at a high level, but Michkov is a finisher who will score a lot of goals as a pro.”
Smaht Scouting: “What sets Michkov apart in terms of goal-scoring is his off-puck game. His sense of timing and positioning is exceptional; he does an excellent job of sneaking into space in the offensive zone with his stick on the ice, and making sure there’s always an open lane for his team to get him the puck.”
Rankings (per Elite Prospects)
Because of Michkov’s undeniable skill, he’s only dropped two spots in Elite Prospect’s 2023 Entry Draft prospect ranking, from second to fourth. And despite all the foreseeable barriers that stand in his path, even before being drafted, Michkov is still projected to at least sneak into this year’s top five. GMs will have to decide if his talent alone garners a top-five projection, or if the long game, which a lot of these teams may not be able to afford, is worth the possibility of watching an early pick vanish into virtually nothing in the upcoming years.
To Michkov’s benefit, because he is a first-round draft pick, there will be much more urgency to try to find a route for him to make it to the NHL. Fifth-round NHL selection in 2015 and former KHL player, Kirill Kaprizov, arrived in the NHL five years after he was drafted. Michkov’s unique predicament will show us which GMs have blinders on and will take the temptation of seeing what the Russian forward can become, versus the GMs that will ultimately decide to pass on a skillful player to do what is best for their team in the short run.
Will Michkov drop to number 11 for the Canucks by June 28? Chances are no. While it’s entirely possible that Michkov will end up being picked outside of the top five, even with all the disadvantages he faces, at least one of the 10 GMs selecting before Canucks GM Patrik Allvin won’t think twice about scooping that calibre of talent up. One way or another, a GM is either going to look really smart for taking a chance on Michkov, or really stupid for wasting a perfectly good — great — pick on a player who isn’t even sure they’ll be able to play in the NHL as of right now.
If for whatever reason Michkov is available by the time the Canucks pick, does the team have the luxury to wait his contract out? Absolutely not. They have enough of their own contracts to worry about. Prior to his December loan to HK Sochi, Michkov wasn’t wowing any scouts with his play in Russia. There’s no telling how Michkov’s recent KHL success will translate to the NHL. Can Michkov have the same success the Canucks latest KHL signing Andrey Kuzemko did in his first year in the league? If anything, the Canucks should wait for Michkov to make the move. If he doesn’t end up signing with whatever team drafts him, and down the road, he wants to come to the NHL and isn’t 148 pounds, then you consider it. But for now, the Canucks should just settle on imagining.
What would your reaction be if the Canucks somehow winded up drafting Matvei Michkov? Let us know in the comments section below!
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