Michkov to continue development in KHL following 2023 NHL Draft

Michkov to continue development in KHL following 2023 NHL Draft

Michkov to continue development in KHL following 2023 NHL Draft

The 2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft is scheduled to be held at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on June 28-29. Every two weeks, NHL.com will take a closer look at some of the draft-eligible players to watch.

Matvei Michkov, No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm ranking presented by BioSteel of International skaters, has a message for any NHL general manager hesitant to select him at the top of the 2023 NHL Draft.

“It is my dream to play in the NHL one day,” Michkov told NHL.com through an interpreter. “But for now I will continue to work on my game and develop as a player at home.”

Home at this moment is Russia, where the 18-year-old right wing (5-foot-10, 172 pounds) had 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 30 games in the Kontinental Hockey League this season.

Michkov started slow because of a knee injury sustained in September and was held without a point in three games with SKA St. Petersburg. But he prospered after being loaned to Sochi on Dec. 20. He averaged 15:51 of ice time in 17 games with Sochi after playing just 3:11 for SKA St. Petersburg.

Sochi (11-47-10) finished last in the KHL West Division and missed the playoffs, but Michkov felt it was a productive experience.

“It was a challenging season for Sochi, but we finished strong and I’m looking forward to continuing to build on that next season,” he said. “I played with Artur Tyanulin and Amir Garayev, but overall we have a tight group of guys. Everyone was very helpful, especially Ivan Didkovsky and Donat Stalnov.”

Michkov began the season considered by many the second-best player available for the 2023 draft after forward Connor Bedard of Regina in the Western Hockey League. And he still might be, if not for how impressive a season forward Adam Fantilli has had as a freshman at the University of Michigan.

Bedard is No. 1 on Central Scouting’s midterm ranking of North American skaters and the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, and Fantilli is No. 2. Leo Carlsson of Orebro in the Swedish Hockey League is No. 1 on the midterm ranking of International skaters.

Michkov was fourth in scoring and third with 97 shots on goal for Sochi, had eight even-strength goals averaged 2:39 of ice time per game on the power play despite being the team’s youngest player.

“I consider myself an offensive player, a playmaker with a good scoring touch,” Michkov said. “I don’t focus too much on comparing or contrasting styles, but Bedard is a great player who I’ve enjoyed competing against.”

Michkov has scored several highlight-reel goals throughout his career, including a “Michigan” lacrosse-style goal in a 5-3 win against Kunlun in Sochi’s season finale Feb. 26.

Tweet from @khl_eng: ��� Lacrosse-style goal��� 5-point night��� 20 Pts in 30 GP of 2022-23��� 18 y.o.Can’t wait to see you next season, Matvei Michkov. pic.twitter.com/Slko0qj9Yl

Whichever NHL team decides to selectMichkov in the draft will do so with the understanding that his KHL contract with SKA St. Petersburg runs through 2025-26, so patience will be needed.

“I would feel comfortable taking Michkov at No. 3 in the draft,” one anonymous scouting director from a team in the Western Conference told NHL.com.

The payoff at the spot could be tremendous.

“It has been challenging to get the scouting evaluations with Russian players,” NHL Central Scouting vice president Dan Marr said. “If you’re strictly evaluating the on-ice play, then Michkov is one of the elite players in this draft class. He has the potential to be in the conversation as of one of the elite players of this decade, same as Connor Bedard. If you factor in a healthy and stronger player, Michkov will be able influence games and have a similar impact on the scoreboard as Bedard. They both have their own unique styles of attack when they have the puck, they are offensive threats and they’re both exciting players to watch.

“Where Michkov will be taken in the draft is going to be in the conversation at every scouting meeting right up until draft day.”

Michkov said he didn’t watch any of the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship; Russia has been banned from international participation since its invasion of Ukraine.

Bedard led all players at the 2023 WJC with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) and was named the tournament’s top forward and most valuable player, helping Canada win a second straight gold medal.

“I heard Bedard had an incredible tournament and, as I mentioned, he’s a great player,” Michkov said. “I like watching NHL games, but I don’t have a favorite player. I enjoy watching the top players in the League. Their skill, speed and quick decision-making is amazing and I’m always looking to see if there is an element from their skill set that I could add to my game.”

The last time Michkov and Bedard were on the ice together was at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, when each was 16 years old. Michkov led all players with 16 points (12 goals, four assists) in seven games, and was named the tournament’s MVP and its best forward. Bedard tied for second with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in seven games and joined Michkov on the tournament all-star team.

Fantilli ready for Big 10 Final

Adam Fantilli, No. 2 on Central Scouting’s midterm ranking of North American skaters, has 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in three games for the University of Michigan in the Big 10 tournament.

Michigan will play Minnesota in the championship game Saturday (8 p.m. ET; Big Ten Network). It swept Wisconsin in the best-of-3 quarterfinals and defeated Ohio State 7-3 in the semifinals.

“I’m super excited,” Fantilli said. “We’ve worked really hard to get here and it’s something we’ve had our eyes on for a while. We’re going to give it our best with what we’ve got and hopefully come home with a ring.”

Fantilli leads NCAA Division I men’s hockey with 60 points (27 goals, 33 assists) in 32 games, and on Wednesday was named one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, presented annually to the top men’s NCAA hockey player. He’s the third highest-scoring freshman in Michigan history, behind Bruno Baseotto (76 points, 1979-80) and Kyle Connor (71 points, 2015-16).

Photos: Sochi, KHL; Bedard family

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