Matvei Michkov is one of the most talented players in the 2023 NHL Draft, but he carries risk. Will the Buffalo Sabres snag him at 13th overall if he falls?
Matvei Michkov is ultra-talented, and we can see this with his overall numbers over the past season. He saw 27 games in the KHL in 2022-23 for HK Sochi, where he logged 20 points, nine goals, and 11 assists. The season before, he played 13 games for SKA St. Petersburg, recording five points, two goals, and three assists.
While Michkov still needs to hone his defensive game, his offensive skill set is without a doubt a top five, perhaps even a top three, talent in this draft. Whether he’s shooting, passing the puck, or in transition, Michkov will make surefire plays, and that’s something he can eventually carry to the NHL. So you might be asking, “How in the world would he fall to 13th?”
Michkov is that draft prospect this season who will be coming with a ‘buyer beware’ tag. His KHL contract runs through 2025-26, so it’s going to be a few years before he even steps on the ice in North America. Per Elliotte Friedman of 32 Thoughts, there could be even more red flags surrounding this prospect. Here’s a snippet of what Freidman said:
"“What I’m hearing is that in Russia, the teams that could get there to meet him, it wasn’t easy to get to talk to him. You would try to talk to him, set up appointments; he just wasn’t interested.” – via 32 Thoughts courtesy of The Hockey News."
Would the Buffalo Sabres take a major risk with Michkov?
Obviously, there’s a lot of risk involved regarding Michkov, especially if it seems like he’s avoiding or acting like he’s uninterested in some teams. But, if he fell to 13th overall, Michkov is clearly the best player on the board, and it isn’t even a contest, even if someone like David Reinbacher was also there for the taking.
Another clear upside is that general manager Kevyn Adams has had remarkable results with signing Russian prospects lately, as shown with Aleksandr Kisakov, Nikita Novikov, Viktor Neuchev, and Vsevolod Komarov. Further, the Buffalo Sabres are fine at forward for the time being, both on the main roster and in the AHL.
What’s more? Although Michkov’s KHL contract runs through 2025-26, Jeff Skinner’s is set to expire following the 2026-27 season. Skinner will be 35, and the Sabres will likely be looking for his replacement, so the timing would be nearly perfect: Get Michkov to North America, put him in the AHL for a season, and he could be a replacement for Skinner come 2027-28.
Overall, Michkov will be a risk given the way he’s acted toward some teams, as Friedman pointed out. But at the same time, there is clear upside that could make it worth the risk. We will find out in a week and a half.
Source: 2023 NHL Draft Rumors: Is Michkov Trying To Maneuver Way Down To Go To Preferred Team? by Sammi Silber, TheHockeyNews.com
(Draft information and statistics provided by Elite Prospects)