Matvei Michkov, in five years’ time, will probably be a top-three player from this draft class. But are the question marks looming too large here?
This draft is a really rare one, in that there is not only one of these rare “generational talent” players available – there may be two. Matvei Michkov would probably be challenging Connor Bedard for the first overall slot, if he played in the CHL. He’s an electrifying talent who will become the face of an NHL franchise some day.
The problem? He’s playing in Russia, and he’s signed for three more seasons. Couple that with the geopolitical situation in Europe right now, and it’s really hard to see a team taking a swing on this player with a top-five pick this season. Especially when the top-five has so many other strong candidates.
Michkov has a terrific hockey IQ, and can create offense in a variety of ways. He’s an elusive skater with a terrific release; while also bringing high end playmaking and a fast motor to the game. He’s slight, listed at 5’10” and 150 or so pounds – but in the end, this guy could be the only player in the entire draft who has an offensive ceiling close to Bedard.
The Jackets are stacked with prospects and players on the wings, but if they think they can bring Michkov over sooner, do they take a swing here? If they don’t like something about Leo Carlsson, I don’t think it’s entirely impossible. Will Smith will probably take just as long to shine in the NHL, and Michkov’s ceiling is way higher.
They also have a recent history of success in being patient with Russian prospects. Yegor Chinakhov, Kirill Marchenko, and now Dmitri Voronkov, have all made the move to North America to sign with the Jackets. Would they do the same with Michkov and land a cornerstone type piece?
Ultimately, I have a hard time seeing it happen. Maybe if they had a couple of high end centers on the way – but they don’t. Every true center prospect they have probably tops out on the second line, at best. I think this pick will come down to Carlsson or Smith, and it may be decided based on what style of player they prefer.
Do they go with the big, two-way, playmaking pivot in Carlsson? Or the smaller, shifty, electrifying scorer in Smith? Time will tell, but it’s important to remember that whichever player they pick here, probably rockets to the top of their prospect list. A list that is already among the best in the NHL. For that reason, it will be hard for them to miss – this is a strong first round.