Top prospect Matvei Michkov's skill and potential has never been in question.
The 17 year old Russian superstar has been ranked as the #2 prospect in the world (behind North Vancouver product Connor Bedard) for months now, but predicting where he'll end up going in the upcoming 2023 NHL Entry Draft has been a bit of a crap shoot. It's believed that Michkov has a long-term contract in the KHL, which would prevent him from heading to the NHL for approximately 3-5 seasons.
The problem is... unlike the NHL, the KHL doesn't make its contracts public and so there's no real way for NHL teams to gauge whether or not Michkov is committed to playing in Russia or playing in the NHL. And to date Michkov has declined to answer any questions about his contractual status.
But earlier today Daniel Bochner, player development and assistant coach for SKA Petersburg, confirmed that Michkov is free to leave Russia to play in the NHL whenever he's ready:
"SKA does not hold players against their will. SKA has contracts with players ... that have to be respected but outside of that, players are free to move and sign as they wish."
- Daniel Bochner
That's all fine and well... but honestly... I'm not sure I believe it. The fact of the matter is that team officials in the KHL have a habit of saying one thing and then doing another. Frankly, I'll believe it when I see it.
I certainly hope though that we get to see Michkov in the NHL sooner rather than later. This season he managed to put up nine goals and 20 points in 27 games in the KHL at just 17 years old. Two years ago he became the youngest goal scorer in Russian national team history, surpassing Alex Ovechkin. In fact, he has surpassed Ovechkin's statistics at every level so far and at a younger age. Again, he's considered the consensus #2 pick for the upcoming 2023 NHL Entry Draft, ranking just behind generational talent Connor Bedard.
Personally, I could see a team like the Montreal Canadiens or the Arizona Coyotes taking a risk on Michkov early in the Draft. Both teams are loaded with young talent and have the ability to wait a few years for him if needed. The likes of the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings though are more likely to go for the sure bet pick, even if Michkov is the more intriguing prospect.