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Top of the lottery prospects: Introducing Matvei Michkov

Matvei Michkov is likely the top European skater in this year’s draft, and a consensus top three — if not top-two — pick in the first round. The major drawback to Michkov’s draft stock is that he’s signed to the KHL’s SKA St. Petersberg through 2025, meaning he won’t be in the U.S. for at least a few more years.

That may not be a major problem for the Chicago Blackhawks, however, who clearly need a major rebuild to be competitors again. If the Blackhawks are left out of the top three draft spots from the lottery this season, Michkov could still be available. Other teams at the bottom of the NHL’s standings are further along in their rebuilds than the Blackhawks and may be more likely to select Adam Fantilli, who will be able to join NHL teams faster than Michkov.

Unlike Fantilli, though, Michkov is playing against grown men in arguably the second-best league in the world right now. Michkov started the season in the KHL, was loaned to the VHL — akin to the Russian version of the AHL — and then loaned back to the KHL but for a different team: HK Sochi.

Now up to eight games for Sochi, he has four goals and one assist.

He even got a little taste of revenge with this goal against St. Petersburg on Monday:

While in the VHL, Michkov scored more than a point-per-game, putting up 10 goals and 4 assists in 12 games.

Michkov is captain of the Russia’s U-25 team, as Russia was not invited to the 2022 World Juniors — the first time in the history of the event but for obvious reasons. Michkov has one assist in two games for Russia internationally (meaning in games against Belarus, which is also banned from the international hockey stage).

Michkov is playing middle-six to bottom-six minutes for Sochi, playing 13:24 in Sunday’s game. However, Michkov has also played 16:47 and 17:24 with Sochi, while he averaged 3:12 with SKA St. Petersburg. That’s worth noticing, because Michkov’s highest ice time in a game with Saint Petersburg was 5:53, so his lack of points possibly shouldn’t be held against him.

Michkov has been described by Elite Prospects as bringing “every offensive tool you could want to the table,” including an excellent wrist shot, vision and ability to evade defenders. Michkov, 5-foot-10, a smaller forward but one with good skating ability, offensive weaponry and the ability to get to the net. A fair comp may be Russian Alex DeBrincat, if we weren’t all worried about Cat’s skating after he was drafted.

Michkov, if he stays put with Sochi for a while, will play some games against stiff competition, including upcoming games against Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Spartak and Kunlun Red Star. Sochi will likely lose these games, as the team has won just five games all season while losing 42. Michkov, therefore, will have experience coming to a bad team like the Blackhawks (oh god let the Hawks be better than this season moving forward).

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