NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After a month of public debate and speculation, the Flyers saw Matvei Michkov fall into their lap.
The club selected the Russian phenom winger seventh overall Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena on Day 1 of the 2023 NHL draft.
Leading up to the draft, Michkov was widely considered a top-five player in this class. However, he was also a prospect of mystery in many ways. He has a contract with the KHL's SKA St. Petersburg that runs through the 2025-26 season, so it’s uncertain when he’ll come to North America.
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For that reason, and with the lack of viewings on Russian prospects because of the geopolitical landscape, Michkov slid down the board.
Ken Hoodikoff, a Flyers amateur scout, is based in Russia and has watched the prospects there in person, as well as talked with many of them.
Last week, general manager Danny Briere said the Flyers were expected to meet with Michkov in Nashville.
“We do a lot of background,” assistant general manager Brent Flahr said last Thursday. “We’ve talked to players on his team, we’ve talked to coaches. We’ve done a lot of our background and we’ll spend time with him and his family, get a comfort level and then make a decision appropriately.”
Playing on loan with the KHL's Sochi this season, Michkov recorded 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 27 games. In 2021-22, he tore up the junior level in his home country, putting up 22 goals and 38 points over 22 games for SKA-1946 St. Petersburg.
When might he join the Flyers' picture?
"To be honest, I can't say for sure," Michkov said Wednesday night, via Hoodikoff as his translator. "I do have a contract, but I'm hoping as soon as I can get out, I'm going to be coming over."
Falling in the draft isn't motivation for Michkov.
"No, to be honest, not at all, because I really wanted to be drafted by the Flyers," Michkov said. "That was my goal. I'm very proud and very happy to be a part of this organization."
Now embracing a rebuild under the first-time GM Briere, the Flyers held a high first-round slot for a second straight summer. In 2022, the club had a top-five pick for just the second time over the past 15 years. It grabbed U.S. forward Cutter Gauthier at No. 5. The 19-year-old is coming off a strong freshman season at Boston College.
Flahr, who oversees the club's amateur scouting efforts, is running his fifth draft with the Flyers and first with Briere as his GM.
“It hasn’t really changed much, to be honest with you,” Flahr said of their dynamic last Thursday. “Danny has spent a lot of time, we’ve been on the road together a lot over the last couple of years evaluating the same players.
“Even when he took over, he had a pretty good idea where we each stand, especially on the players at the top of the draft that he was aware of, and we have a similar philosophy. He has some different ideas of approaches that he has addressed with our staff and scouts on what he thinks. But as far as our amateur scouting side, it has been a pretty easy transition.”
Day 2 of the 2023 draft is Thursday, wrapping up with Rounds 2-7 (11 a.m. ET/NHL Network). The Flyers hold eight picks:
- Round 3 — No. 87 overall
- Round 3 — No. 95 overall
- Round 4 — No. 103 overall
- Round 4 — No. 120 overall
- Round 5 — No. 135 overall
- Round 6 — No. 167 overall
- Round 6 — No. 172 overall
- Round 7 — No. 199 overall