- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Matvei Michkov had one wish granted when the Philadelphia Flyers selected him seventh overall in the 2023 NHL draft Wednesday night. But he has another wish for his NHL career: To honor his late father by lifting the Stanley Cup.
Michkov’s father, Andrei, died in April at the age of 51, according to the Russian Hockey Federation.
Matvei Michkov, an 18-year-old right wing who played for the Russian national team, was thinking about his late father as he wore a Flyers jersey for the first time.
“Right now, it’s important for me to finish the goal that my dad had for me, and that’s winning the Stanley Cup,” he said through an interpreter.
Michkov credited his father with developing his offensive game.
“A lot of the credit goes to my goal scoring to my late father. He taught me the different ways of disguising my shot. I think right now he’d be very proud and happy for me and all the work that we put in together and he’d be proud of where I am,” he said.
Michkov was the most fascinating player in the draft’s first round. Some scouts claimed the winger had the highest talent ceiling outside of Connor Bedard, who was drafted first overall by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Michkov had 16 points in seven games, including 12 goals, at the 2020-21 IIHF U18 world junior championships. He had 22 goals in 22 games in the Kontinental Hockey League’s developmental league in 2021-22. Last season in the KHL, he had 20 points in 27 games, starting the season as a 17-year-old.
Michkov is ranked second behind center Leo Carlsson from Orebro HK in Sweden among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting. Carlsson was drafted second overall by the Anaheim Ducks.
While he didn’t attend the NHL combine, Michkov met with select teams, fueling speculation that he was trying to maneuver his way to a specific landing spot. Michkov denied he told any team not to draft him.
“No, no. I talked to every team. Those kinds of words, I’ve never mentioned,” he said.
What really made Michkov a peculiar prospect in the draft: He may not play in the NHL until the 2026-27 season, as he’s under contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League for the next three seasons.
Michkov said he couldn’t say for sure when he’d be able to make the jump to the NHL.
“I do have a contract, but I’m hoping as soon as I can get out, I’m going to come here,” he said.
The Flyers understood this situation when they drafted him.
“It is what it is,” Flyers general manager Daniel Briere said. “We know he has a contract for three more seasons. But we just felt after watching him play and meeting him, we felt he’s a talent we can’t pass up. If we have to wait, we’ll wait.”
Michkov was projected to go as high as No. 2 overall in the draft. But he wasn’t concerned at all when he fell to No. 7.
“Not at all, because I really wanted to be drafted by the Flyers. That was my goal,” he said. “To be with the Philadelphia Flyers is a dream.”
Michkov said he met with the Flyers twice and came away impressed with their organization, feeling that the two sides were “speaking the same language.”
Briere said he could sense Michkov had an affinity for the Flyers organization as well.
In fact, the phenom wants to do something no one’s been able to do in Philadelphia since 1975. For the Flyers. For his father.
“My biggest wish is that I want to come to Philadelphia and I want to help them win a Stanley Cup. I know they’ve been waiting a long time for one,” Michkov said. “That’s my goal. That’s why I’m coming here.”
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