NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Philadelphia Flyers are in rebuilding mode, so that makes waiting for Matvei Michkov to finish his commitment in Russia a bit easier.
The Flyers answered perhaps the biggest question coming into Wednesday night's NHL draft by taking the Russian right winger at No. 7 overall.
Michkov wasn't the first Russian selected. That was defenseman Dmitriy Simashev at No. 6 by Arizona despite Michkov being considered possibly the best Russian prospect since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in 2005.
Now the Flyers have no choice but to be patient after the team drafted a Russian in the first round for the third time in its history.
“We can't wait to have that answer ourselves,” general manager Daniel Briere said of exactly when Michkov will play for Philadelphia.
“It is what it is. We know he has got a contract for three more seasons. But for us we just felt after watching him play and after meeting him, we just felt it's a talent that we cannot pass up and if we have to wait, we'll wait.”
Especially if this pick turns into what Briere hopes.
“We hope that this turns out to be a home run. Time will tell,” Briere said. “It’s a little early. But we feel when he’s ready to come, he could really be a difference-maker. And that’s the risk that we were willing to take it to wait a little bit, to hopefully have a difference-maker on our hands.”
The Flyers met with the 5-foot-10, 172-pound right wing, who's so elusive Arizona general manager Bill Armstrong called him a “ghost” on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old forward from Perm, Russia, has been playing for Sochi in the KHL, and he is under contract with St. Petersburg through the 2025-26 season. He was rated the No. 2 international skater behind Sweden's Leo Carlsson, who went second overall to Anaheim.
Michkov brings speed and the kind of playmaking ability that could make him a superstar in the NHL. He persuaded the Flyers to be patient when they met with him a couple times.
The Russian also made clear he loves the Flyers.
“He wanted to be part of the Flyers,” Briere said. “We saw it on stage. His reaction was amazing. He convinced us basically in the meeting he wanted to be there and he wanted to be a Flyer. Our staff felt really good about selecting him.”
A translator who spoke for the Russian said Michkov expects to reward the patience of the Flyers and their fans.
“The ice will show everything,” the translator said. “So maybe everyone has to wait a bit, but when Matvei comes to the ice, everyone will see the wait was worth it.”
Michkov had 20 points in 27 games after being loaned to Sochi on Dec. 20. He started last season moving between St. Petersburg’s KHL and Division II teams.
In the 2021-22 playoffs for SKA St. Petersburg's junior team, he scored a playoff-best 13 goals in 17 games. He also won a silver medal and was the MVP of the 2021 Under-18 world championships, where he led all players with 12 goals and 16 points in seven games.
Briere said the team has made clear to fans that its turnaround won't be instantaneous.
“He’s a clear example of that,” Briere said of Michkov.
Not going higher also seems to have provided Michkov with some motivation.
“He likes to play against the best ones,” the translator said. “So he’ll do his best to play against them, win against them so he will have double motivation to prove that he’s the best player.”