November 8, 2022

Matvei Michkov fronts an interesting draft class from Russia

There’s Matvei Michkov.

And then there’s the rest.

Michkov, No. 2 in FCHockey’s Preliminary ranking for the 2023 NHL Draft class, has all the makings of a franchise-defining talent.

“Michkov is an absolute offensive dynamo who can do it all at an elite level,” FCHockey scout Jake Janso said. “He scores effortlessly with his slick release and pinpoint accuracy and he sets up plays that few can. My expectations for him couldn’t be higher.

“Michkov’s composure with the puck is something that few young players have. It’s a confidence that allows him to wait for plays to open up. His release is very quick and the shot is heavy and accurate. He’s most deadly when shooting at a low pace or a standstill and his one-timer is lethal. He has an NHL level shot already, in my opinion. While there are definitely some glaring red flags in his game, the only other prospect with the offensive composure and maturity of Michkov in this draft is Connor Bedard. He’s on another level, but he’s not a sure-thing in my opinion.”

Michkov, who has 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in eight games with SKA-Neva St. Petersburg in the lower-tier VHL, doesn’t come without complication, however. The talented winger is under contract with SKA through the 2026 season, meaning any team that selects him likely has a long, long await ahead to reap the benefits of the top talent.

It’s a complication, for sure, and likely to give teams picking in the top-four a little bit of pause.

But the talent is undeniable in the skater that logged 38 points (22 goals, 16 assists) in 22 games with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg in the junior MHL last season, and added 16 points (12 goals, four assists) in seven games at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

Here is Janso’s take on the draft class set to come out of Russia:

Who are you personally looking forward most to scouting this season?

Mikhail Gulyayev is one of the most fun players to watch in this draft. He’s so smooth on his skates and, as a defenseman, can beat other defenseman one on one with his skill. I could watch him carry the puck from behind his net into the offensive zone with possession all day.

Who is your sleeper pick as the biggest riser from Russia?

Roman Kantserov is a player who could shoot into the top 15 as the season progresses. He’s a shifty but intelligent forward with exciting playmaking ability, great edgework, and promising defensive acumen. I think there is a lot of room for his game to grow this year.

Who do you see being the toughest prospect to gauge from your region?

So far, Dmitri Simashev has been very difficult for me to properly evaluate. He’s a big, mobile, two-way defenseman who’s already playing in the KHL. However, that is what complicates things. He plays as a reliable, shutdown defenseman in the KHL but I can’t shake the feeling that he’s held back offensively because of this. There are moments where he displays unique puck skills and great offensive awareness but they’re too inconsistent to gauge the upside. I’ve wondered how good he would be in the MHL this season.

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