In just over a week, the San Jose Sharks have the opportunity to make a franchise-altering decision. Between now and then, General Manager Mike Grier must decide whether he wants to trade the number four pick in the draft for prospects, a higher pick, young NHL caliber players, or if he wants to hang on to draft what appears to be a future NHL top line player and potentially a star.
At Fear the Fin, we’re pushing to keep the pick. Trading up is too costly, a price a team that’s rebuilding on the fly(?) cannot afford to pay. Trading down is a non-starter. There are approximately five amazing players in this draft and San Jose happens to have one of the golden tickets. There’s no way we’re handing it off; even if we’re offered a truckload of Everlasting Gobstoppers in return.
So, who should the Sharks draft at number four, assuming the clear-cut favorites: Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli, go one and two as predicted?
Matvei Michkov, RW – SKA St. Petersburg KHL
Weight: 172 lbs.
Age/DOB: 18, Dec. 9, 2004
2022-23 SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): 3 games, 0 points
2022-23 SKA Neva St. Petersburg (VHL): 12 games, 14 points (10 G, 4 A)
2022-23 HK Sochi (KHL): 27 games, 20 points (9 G, 11 A)
2022-23 Kapitan Stupino (MHL) Playoffs: 5 games, 7 points (4 G, 3 A)
The scouting reports
The book on Michkov is that he could be a generational talent, but no one is quite sure because, as a Russian player in the current global climate, Michkov cannot get the same spotlight as other prospects.
We’ll dive into those issues in a minute. First, let’s look at what some scouts say, starting with a recent article on San Jose Hockey Now where Sheng Peng talked to scouts about Michkov’s potential character concerns. Words like “cocky” and “a**hole” were tossed around along with this from a person Peng called “Scout #2.”
“He would [get on] the older KHL guys if they didn’t pass him the puck. I mean, he wasn’t wrong, but also that’s pretty ballsy for an 18-year-old kid to do,” Scout #2 told San Jose Hockey Now. “You could see it happen live. Like PP stuff, guys passing him up for another option that doesn’t work out. He’d show frustration.”
An 18-year-old boy cocky? Never. Whether that can be ironed out in the future is yet to be seen. It’s a coin flip for any of these young men eying a future in pro sports. Michkov is no different in that sense.
Despite the questions, scouts say there’s an amazing upside to Michkov’s game that cannot be overlooked. They’re high on the young forward and for good reason. Elite Prospects calls Michkov a “triple-threat.”
“The rare triple-threat winger, Michkov is a constant threat to find the back of the net. His puck skills are near the top of the draft, owing to immense creativity, hip pocket handling, dextrous hands, and a never-say-die attitude,” wrote Elite Prospects. “You may think that you have him, but most of the time, you really don’t. His ability to problem-solve his way out of defensive pressure is at a level all its own. Michkov creates plays on the ice that we can’t even fathom with the benefit of a bird’s eye view.”
Meanwhile, Chris Peters of FloHockey loves Michkov’s hockey IQ and says he’s close to the same level as Bedard in terms of goal scoring.
“For the last few years, I’ve described Michkov as a genius-level hockey player. His sense for the game is among the best I’ve seen since I’ve been evaluating prospects. Bedard might be the best goal scorer, but Michkov is not terribly far behind,” wrote Peters. “What makes Michkov special is that he’s always thinking a step ahead. He uses his creativity to find space, but just about everything he does is intentional and net-driven. The quickness with which he figures out how he needs to get open or how he can best position a shot is at an elite level. In addition to processing the game at such a high rate, Michkov also has the hands, and the shot, to execute with precision.”
The case against Michkov
Considering all of that, it’s easy to see why teams would consider Michkov a top pick in the draft. However, aside from the attitude questions – we can’t call them issues since it’s hard to get reports out of Russia on the forward – there are other, larger problems.
The case against Michkov is the biggest deterrent for almost every team picking in the top 10. The issue is severalfold.
First, there’s the current global climate. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian players have not been allowed to compete in international tournaments. That means no one has had a chance to see Michkov play against the other top prospects in the draft. It’s hard to see how he stacks up in a best-on-best.
The current climate also impacts Michkov’s availability. The forward is locked into a KHL contract through 2025-26. Given the state of affairs between the U.S. and Russia, it’s hard to see Michkov being allowed out of his contract early. His current team is owned by a Russian state-controlled energy giant.
The second issue is that given the relationship between the U.S. and Russia, no one can be sure what kind of oversight any team can have on Michkov’s development. Let’s assume the forward plays out his three-year contract. Would San Jose be able to monitor the forward’s progress? Would the Sharks have any input on Michkov’s development? Would there be any communication between the team and Michkov’s coaches? It’s hard to say.
A lot can happen in three years. A player’s development trajectory can be swayed. Worse yet, from a team perspective, a player may decide that coming to America is not what he wants. Picking Michkov leaves a lot up to chance for the Sharks or any team for that matter.
The case for Michkov
All of that said, many people will point to the Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprisov as the exact reason why the Sharks do not need to worry about Michkov.
It’s easy to see why Michkov would be a great pick for the Sharks. This is a potentially generational player. He’s extremely intelligent on the ice, handles the puck with ease and is always looking to make a play. Add hockey IQ to a guy with all the skill to make things happen on the ice and you’ve got a potential NHL star. The skill that Michkov possesses is difficult to pass up. Some scouts say he’s nearly on the same level as Bedard. That’s a talent you don’t see every day.
What’s more, the timeline is not as big a problem for the Sharks as it would be for other teams. San Jose will likely be in the race again this season for the top pick in the NHL draft. The roster simply isn’t ready to compete for a Stanley Cup.
If, as hinted at, the Sharks trade Erik Karlsson this offseason and get a sensational return for him, we know for sure that San Jose is a few years away from truly competing. A trade gives San Jose time to bring in complementary young talent that will complement Michkov and his game. When Michkov’s contract is up in three to four years, the Sharks will have all the necessary pieces to be a serious Stanley Cup contender.
If you want more details on Michkov’s game, check out Elite Prospect’s breakdown of how the forward plays.