NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Flyers have always been somewhat risk-takers at the NHL Draft, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise when they chose Russian forward Matvei Michkov with the No. 7 overall pick at Wednesday night’s NHL Draft.
Michkov, ranked as high as No. 2 in some mock drafts, “fell” to No. 7 possibly because he has three more years left on his contact with St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.
Whether the Flyers believe they can shorten that timeline remains to be seen but there’s no doubting Michkov’s talent.
He was ranked as high as No. 2 by some scouting bureaus behind only consensus No. 1 Connor Bedard.
General manager Daniel Briere confirmed the Flyers considered Michkov’s status before making the pick but are hopeful something can be worked out.
“I know what everyone knows, he has a three-year contract with St. Petersburg,” Briere said after the first round was concluded. “That’s the timeline we were told. We will deal with that. That’s not something that scared us – to have the chance to take a player of his caliber at pick No. 7.
“We had the chance to meet with him a couple times. We were blown away by his personality and how much he seemed to love having the chance to be a Flyer. We were trying to explain that to the rest of our staff. They did believe us. We brought him in a second time and again he blew everybody in the room away.”
After his selection at Bridgestone Arena, Michkov talked about why he was so excited to be drafted by the Flyers.
Turns out he was hoping to be taken by the Flyers all along.
“I’m extremely excited,” Michkov said through an interpreter. “This is the team I wanted to be drafted by.”
Well, it started with interviews conducted by the team.
“I met with them twice and both times were very positive,” said the native of Perm, Russia. “The Flyers are a very smart organization. I’m grateful and very happy to be a member of the Flyers.”
The 5-10, 179-pound left wing registered 9 goals/20 points in 30 games for St. Pete. “I think the strongest part of my game is I’m a goalscorer,” he said.
He knows it’s been a long time since the Flyers experienced a championship and he wants to do his part to end that frustration.
“I want to come to Philadelphia and help them win a Stanley Cup,’’ Michkov said. “They’ve been waiting a long time and that’s my goal. After the meeting I had with them I felt very comfortable. I felt like we were talking the same language.”
Briere was grinning as he spoke at the podium. He feels fortunate the Russian “fell in his lap.”
“He said he wanted to be a Flyer and that made us feel really good about the prospect of drafting him,” Briere said. “It’s one thing to say that, to have a talent of his caliber, we didn’t think he would be available at seven.”
The GM said the Flyers did try to move up to guarantee a shot at Michkov but it turns out he didn’t have to make a move.
Michkov admitted he isn’t sure when he will be available to play in the NHL. The Flyers have already experienced some bad luck when one of their prized Russian goalie prospects, Ivan Fedotov, was called back into military service last year.
“I do have a contract,” he acknowledged. “But I’m hoping as soon as I get out, I’m going to come over.”
Michkov said there won’t be any extra motivation just because he was passed over by some teams.
“No,” he said, “to be honest, it doesn’t matter at all. Because I really wanted to be drafted by the Flyers. That was my goal. I know a lot of history about the Flyers. When I got to meet the management, that’s when I decided that is the team I wanted to be drafted by.”
The Russian also said he didn’t talk to many NHL scouts. He concentrated on his game and kept an open mind.
Clearly, the word is out the Flyers are in rebuild mode and Michkov will be a big part of that.
“I guess that means we’re going to start winning when I get here,” he kidded. “I hate losing. I’m going to work as hard as I have to in order to make a big impact.”
High-end skill was a big reason why the Flyers made the decision to go this route.
“We talked that we don’t have anyone like him in the organization,” Briere said. “We felt it was something. . .we’ve talked for how many years about bringing more skill, more talent to our team. This was a great opportunity to develop a player who can kind of play that role for us.”