Josh
Bell
December 26, 2021

Matvei Michkov set to shine on World Juniors stage

It’s not often that a prospect is mentioned with players like Nikita Kucherov and Alex Ovechkin. 

It’s even rarer when the conversation surrounding that prospect breaking records set by players like Kucherov and Ovechkin.

Matvei Michkov has become the most exciting prospect in hockey over recent years, yet we have to wait until the 2023 NHL Draft for him to be drafted when he’ll battle Connor Bedard for that top spot.

Michkov is a goal-scoring weapon with one of the most accurate shots you’ll ever see and the ability to get it off from anywhere on the ice – including from behind the net with a lacrosse-style goal. He’s tenacious on the ice, constantly pushing the pace and his intelligence is off the charts. If you give him an inch, it’s likely he’ll score on you.

“Michkov is ridiculously dynamic and talented, and he seems to get better when the spotlight on him gets brighter,” FCHockey scout Derek Neumeier said. “Despite being very young for this tournament, I know he’s going to do some amazing things and generate a lot of footage for the highlight reels.”

The Russian phenom was garnering attention in 2019-20 as a 15-year-old, playing in the Russian U16 league where he put up a ridiculous 109 points (70 goals, 39 assists) in just 26 games. That total is the second-best in the league all-time – and he did it with 17 fewer games than No. 1.

That same year, he started his international ascension at the Youth Olympic Games for Russia, where he added another 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in just four games. He led all players in goals and points – something he was going to be used to moving forward – while also setting the all-time goals and points records in the event.

For those that didn’t follow in 2019-20, Michkov made it impossible not to keep an eye on him in 2020-21. 

The right winger stepped into the MHL as a rookie and dominated the league, putting up 56 points (38 goals, 18 assists) in 50 games. He topped the league in goals and finished eighth in points.

What made this season all the more impressive though, is that Michkov finished with the most goals and points for a U17 player in the league.

Ever. 

The previous owner of those records? Nikita Kucherov in 2009-10, where he had 54 points (29 goals, 25 assists) in 53 games.

“When Michkov is on the ice, it’s difficult to not be sitting on the edge of your seat every single time he has the puck,” FCHockey scout Brandon Holmes said. “He is one of the most creative and skilled prospects I’ve seen in recent memory, and his imagination with the puck allows him to react at a moment’s notice to what opposing defenses are giving him and he’s always able to work his way into scoring opportunities wherever he is on the ice.”

Michkov’s story doesn’t stop there.

The star prospect was named to the Russian U18 team for the 2021 World Under-18 Hockey Championships, giving many fans an opportunity for a first glimpse at the future NHL star.

And of course, Michkov did not disappoint.

He led the team to a silver medal, collecting tournament-leading 16 points (12 goals, four assists) in seven games. He was named a top-three player on Team Russia, the Best Forward of the tournament, and was crowned MVP.

Michkov finished just two goals and two points back of the all-time records in the tournament, currently held by Ovechkin and Cole Caufield. Ovechkin’s mark stands up as the 16-year-old record, although he did it in eight games (2.25 points per game) versus Michkov’s seven (2.29 points per game).

And now we come to the current season, where Michkov has already been impressing. 

He started out at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, recording another 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in five games, casually leading the tournament in goals and points. Are you sensing a pattern here? He tied the all-time goals record (as did Czech 2023-eligible Dalibor Dvorsky), previously set by Cole Perfetti, and passed Perfetti in the all-time points category.

The next tournament Michkov was in, he set history once again. In November, he became the youngest player to even suit up for the Russian men’s national team in the Karjala Cup, debuting at 16 years, 11 months and two days old. Ovechkin previously held the record, first appearing at 17 years, 11 months, and 15 days old. Michkov had two points (one goal, one assist) in the three games played.

And now, Michkov is looking to be a top player for the Russian squad at the 2022 World Junior Championships, after just turning 17 earlier this month. While Russia has a tendency to not use their younger players in top roles, Michkov is too good not to use as an offensive mainstay.

And yet despite all of these points and personal accolades that he’s been collecting over his career, there’s only one thing that Michkov has his eyes set on.

“I will show my maximum and do everything to get into the final game and help the national team win gold,” Michkov told Championat.com. “The most important thing is the victory of our team, personal statistics do not matter. 

“Goals and assists are needed only to help achieve the main goal – to take gold medals. I will do everything to justify the trust of coaches and partners on the ice.”

That being said, seeing what he’s done in past tournaments, it only makes sense to brush up on current tournament records. 

First, he doesn’t need much to become the top U17 Russian scorer all-time, as Vyacheslav Voynov currently has that title with one goal.

The all-time goal and points total for a U17 player will be tougher to achieve and is held by none other than The Great One, Wayne Gretzky. Back in 1978, a 16-year-old Gretzky collected 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in six games. That’s a tough mark to beat, but it’s absolutely attainable for Michkov.

The overall record is likely an untouchable record from Peter Forsberg in 1992-93, where he set the points record with a ridiculous 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists) in just seven games. 

Something to keep an eye on though, is the all-time goals record of 13, set by Markus Naslund playing with Forsberg.

His draft is still 18 months away, but the hype around Michkov is real and justified. 

And he’s only just getting started.

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