One of the major storylines heading into the 2023 NHL Draft on June 28 is where Russian phenom Matvei Michkov will end up. Michkov’s lengthy KHL contract, the geopolitical situation in his home country, and his reluctance to state whether or not he has the desire to play in the NHL any time soon has talking heads around the league puzzled.
According to a report from Elliotte Friedman on the 32 Thoughts Podcast, Michkov may be fueling even more of that mystery by refusing to talk with certain teams despite the fact he’ll be in Nashville for the draft. That has caused rumors to swirl that he may be maneuvering to be selected by a specific team in the first round.
I’ll tell you this. We know that Michkov is coming to the draft. I think the true storyline here before the draft itself is, who does he meet with? Because, and it’s really difficult to confirm this right now, but a number of teams are indicating that they can’t get an assurance he’ll talk to them before the draft. He obviously wasn’t at the combine. The Russian players who are based in Russia couldn’t be there. He’s a talented guy. He’s had a really traumatic year unfortunately and there’s a lot of mystery about him and teams want to get to know who they’re dealing with here.
One of the things I heard too was in Russia this year, the teams that could get there to meet him it wasn’t easy to get to talk to him. You would try to talk to him, set up appointments, and he just wasn’t interested. Someone said to me the only way you could really get to talk to him was if you physically got to him right after a game and talked to him for a couple minutes.
So, there’s a number of teams hearing that he’s coming in [for the draft] and they want the opportunity to meet with him. And, like I said, some of these teams haven’t gotten a commitment yet. So, what everybody is kind of wondering here is does Michkov have a preference? Is there a team or teams that he wants to go to and he’s kind of maneuvering it so that that happens? Now, I think that’s still a little bit premature. We still have a couple of weeks to figure this out. The draft is in 12 days. But there’s definitely an air of mystery right now and there are teams that want to talk to him who haven’t been given any confirmation that they’re going to be able to talk to him. So, the intrigue around him continues as we get closer to it.
After Friedman ended his explanation of the situation many teams are facing, he asked his co-host Jeff Marek to give a prediction on where Michkov would end up. Marek almost immediately went with the Washington Capitals who will pick eighth overall in the first round and have the greatest Russian hockey player of all time in Alex Ovechkin as their captain.
The Caps also just recently were able to get Ivan Miroshnichenko, their 2022 first-round draft selection, out of his KHL contract a year early and sign him to his entry-level deal.
Michkov, in mid-May, was asked about the potential of being drafted by the Caps.
“Yes, that would be great,” Michkov said then as translated via Google Translate. “But not everything depends on me. As fate wills, so be it. You just have to be ready for everything.”
In 27 KHL games with HC Sochi this past season, Michkov recorded 20 points (9g, 11a). Even if you include the three games he played for SKA St. Petersburg to start the year where he was sometimes skating less than two minutes a game, his .67 points per game rate was the highest for a draft-eligible player in KHL history.
It’s clear Michkov has the on-ice part down and would likely be the second overall draft pick based on just talent and potential alone. But, off the ice it seems to be a different story.
“In terms of character, in relation to teammates, coaching staff, management, fans – the person has now fallen very low in the eyes of all scouts, all managers,” Caps scout Andrei Nikolishin said in a recent Russian language interview and translated via Google Translate. “The information is collected about the player – about how he talks with partners, how he communicates with coaches, how he behaves off the ice.
“You can reveal many nuances,” Nikolishin continued. “I can show the correspondence when I wanted to meet him and, being a scout, ask a few questions, do an interview, how he answers. I have never seen such disrespect for other people in my life.”
Whether or not all of the noise actually impacts his draft stock will be revealed in just over a week’s time. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports Monday that multiple clubs do in fact have scheduled interviews with Michkov but there is no indication which teams those might be.
McKenzie adds that, “No elite NHL draft prospect has had less live viewings or interactions with NHL GMs, executives, or head scouts in his draft year than Michkov.”
Headline photo: @matvey_michkov39/Instagram
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