Flyers analysis

Briere: Tortorella will coach Michkov ‘just like he does everybody else'

The 19-year-old top prospect signed his three-year entry-level contract with the Flyers on Monday

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VOORHEES, N.J. — Danny Briere opted to not divulge the specifics on how a long wait for Matvei Michkov turned into an expedited arrival.

After all, the decision wasn't really up to the Flyers. They're just happy to see him two years earlier than anticipated.

So on Monday, an hour and a half after the Flyers announced Michkov's entry-level contract had ink on the dotted line, Briere smiled and offered the obvious.

"We're excited that he's finally coming," the Flyers' general manager said, one year and four days after calling Michkov's name at the NHL draft. "I think there were a lot of things that needed to happen in the background, but that was mostly for him and the team in Russia and his representative."

Last Tuesday, Michkov, a talented 19-year-old winger and inarguably the Flyers' top prospect, was given his release from SKA St. Petersburg. For almost two months prior, it was all reports and speculation.

Michkov was only one year into his three-year deal to play in the KHL, Russia's top pro league. That commitment and the uncertainty with the geopolitical landscape made Michkov drop to the Flyers at No. 7 in last summer's draft. The Flyers couldn't pass on him, especially after courting him leading up to the draft.

Now they have him.

And John Tortorella is ready to coach him.

"When I told Torts, he was really excited," Briere said. "And that's one of the things that I'm most excited about, too — the chance for Matvei to learn from a coach like Torts. I know he's going to coach him the right way, just like he does everybody else. He's going to be tough on him, he's going to be fair and he's going to teach him the right way."

The 66-year-old has adapted over his 1,547 games as an NHL head coach. But he's still John Tortorella. He will coach a player in a hard and direct way. Everyone is treated the same. There are no exceptions.

Michkov has been regarded for his competitiveness, even in practice. That should jibe with Tortorella (and his notorious skating test to open training camp).

"I think that's some of the best news about all of this, he's going to come here and nothing's going to be given to him, he's going to have to earn it," Briere said. "Knowing how competitive we've been told he is, it's going to be great, it's going to be fun to see. I know I'm really excited about that matchup."

The Flyers know Michkov has the capability of giving their rebuild a real jolt in the offensive department. But they will stress patience, as well. He's a teenager jumping to the best league in the world. The language barrier is also a factor. The Flyers are going to provide Michkov a tutor to help him further grasp English and best communicate with the coaches. As a French Canadian, Briere had a similar transition in the AHL.

"We're going to work with him," Briere said. "I went through it, I barely knew any English when I started my first year pro in Springfield (Massachusetts). I get the culture difference is a lot less coming from Quebec than coming from Russia, but the players want to help and he's going to be surrounded. Having Egor Zamula and Ivan Fedotov around, as well, we're hoping will help his case, feel better and at home here."

One of the next steps for the Flyers is adding more talent to put around Michkov down the road. They hope last weekend's draft was a part of that initiative. Next summer, they have three first-round picks and three second-rounders.

"It's a lot of picks early on, we're going to try to leverage that the best we can," Briere said. "It's too early to tell if we're going to pick or if we're going to move them or if we're going to use them to upgrade somewhere. But we're going to look at all different scenarios."

Once the offseason settles and September arrives, fans will have their eyes on Michkov. The touted youngster and the veteran head coach will get to work.

"Just on the power play alone, we hope that he can help us there," Briere said. "As far as the rest of his game, he's going to be in control of that and how much he's committed to playing 200 feet for Torts. But look, to be honest, we don't have really anyone like him in the organization as far as a player, as far as the skill level. He's got a lot to learn and he's not going to be put above anybody else, but he's an exciting player and he's a very talented player."

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