In an interesting development, the Flyers' uber-talented prospect Matvei Michkov was sat for SKA St. Petersburg's regular-season opener Saturday.
SKA St. Petersburg, Michkov's KHL club, beat Dynamo Moscow, 2-1. Michkov, the seventh overall pick in the 2023 NHL draft, was not in the lineup. A source confirmed that, from the Flyers' understanding, Michkov's absence was a healthy scratch and not injury related.
The news is certainly surprising considering the 18-year-old is one of the top prospects in Russian hockey. It's probably not the way the Flyers thought Michkov's season would start — with the goal-scoring winger sitting, not playing. SKA St. Petersburg is one of the premier teams in the KHL, Russia's top pro league. Michkov is in the first season of a three-year contract with the club.
"If you guys are familiar with them, they're probably the richest and most powerful team there," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said following the NHL draft in late June. "They keep signing players constantly. As far as me, selfishly, I just want him to play and play lots, have a big role offensively.
"He's a young kid, they care about winning only there, but he is a big name there, so I assume he's going to be taken care of and brought along. We were well aware of the contract status of him, we're fine with that. In three years, he should be NHL-ready and have an impact when he comes over."
One of the Flyers' amateur scouts Ken Hoodikoff is based in Russia. He played a key role in the Flyers' courting Michkov and should be an important resource for the organization throughout the season.
"He was a big help because he was the only person, really, that had an eye on him from our staff in the last season," Flyers general manager Danny Briere said after Day 1 of the NHL draft. "His interactions with Matvei were great, he was very positive on him, as a player, as a person. He felt good about the pick, as well. He said you don't get the chance to find a player of that talent fall down the draft very often."
SKA St. Petersburg's next game is Monday. We'll see if Michkov draws into the lineup for his season debut.
"He’s what I would call a spotlight player," Daniel Bochner, the former player development coach for SKA St. Petersburg and now with the Hurricanes, said in July. "When the game’s on the line, when something needs to happen, some players sort of like to hide in those situations, where he sort of likes to be the guy that says, ‘Hey, give me the puck, I’m going to do something here.’
“He wants to change the force of the game, he wants to be that difference-maker, that ‘it’ factor to be able to dictate the terms of the game in his favor. He definitely has the ability and then he also has that character to want to be that type of player and that difference-maker.”