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Top of the lottery prospects: Matvei Michkov hops back on track

Just two months into his 18th year, Michkov looks much better for HK Sochi recently.

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championships - Final
Matvei Michkov of Russia celebrates a goal against Russia during the U18 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Matvei Michkov has steered back on track recently, posting three points — including one goal — in his last five games with HK Sochi of the KHL.

There was a much different tone around Michkov in the last update, as Michkov had scored just one point in the five games prior to that report. But in the Michkov’s five most recent games, he’s not only scoring more frequently — he’s doing so in fewer minutes.

Michkov remains in the middle six for Sochi — which a good thing for someone of his caliber who just turned 18 in December — but gone are the games when Michkov was expected to play 17-19 minutes. Instead, Michkov’s capped out at 16:40 in his last five games, still good minutes for a teenager in one of the best leagues in the world.

It’s not like Michkov is getting help from real talent either. Artyom Nikolayev is scoring the most for HK Sochi this year, and he’s added just 20 points (10 G, 10 A) in 47 games played. For reference, on Michkov’s actual team (he’s simply on loan to Sochi), SKA St. Petersburg, 11 players have more than 20 points.

That’s not great, considering one of Michkov’s current teammates is former Chicago prospect Andrei Altybarmakyan (a 2017 third-round pick by the Hawks). But when even Altybarmakyan is struggling to score (down from 31 points in his lone full AHL season to 16 points in 38 games) maybe Sochi’s just bad.

Anyway, Michkov’s 0.5 point-per-game pace is second best on the Sochi roster, tied with Nikita Popugayev and following 29-year-old Artyom Fyodorov, who has also played games with SKA St. Petersburg this season.

Michkov’s not exactly in an ideal situation to succeed here.