“You always remember your first,” so the saying goes. Daniel Briere made his first picks as general manager of the Flyers selecting Russian phenom Matvei Michkov with the seventh overall pick and Oliver Bonk with the 22nd pick later on. Michkov wasn’t much of a surprise, as the Flyers seemed to be trending in that direction over the last week or so. Bonk, was slightly more of a surprise, but there were no clear signs where Philly would go at 22.
The draft grades are in and they are pretty positive. However, both selections have two things that are very similar. They are very risky prospects who could turn Briere into a genius. They could also become big time busts. When drafting a player, you never know if a player will get hurt, lose confidence in themselves, struggle against better competition, rise to the occasion and become a star, or exceed everyone’s expectations.
Let’s take a look at both of the 2023 draft picks made by the Philadelphia Flyers. We’ll examine the pros of each pick as well as the red flags they are throwing out there.
Offensively, Michkov is the man. NHL Central Scouting rated him the second best skater from Europe. The Athletic rated him, as well as others, as the second best player in the draft. And if you listened to the ESPN commentators talk about him, they raved about him having a skill set that could rival Connor Bedard in potential.
He is a stat monster. In 2021-22, he was constantly lighting up the lamp in the Russian Junior League. He scored 22 goals with 38 points in 22 games for SKA-1946 St. Petersburg. This past season, he dealt with some injuries, but when he played for Sochi in the KHL, he put up 20 points in just 29 games. In international play, he’s done well including eight goals in five games for the Russian under 18 team in 2021-22.
He’s fast and elusive. He possess a great wrist shot as well as a hard one-timer. He can skate circles around defenders and set up plays. In short, this guy has all the potential to be an offensive juggernaut. In fact, he could be the Flyers first killer offensive weapon since the duo of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. And when teamed up in the future with last year’s first rounder Cutter Gauthier, they could be a powerful combo for years to come.
IF he is this good, why did he fall to seventh? Michkov is signed to a three year deal with his KHL team. That means we won’t see him until the start of the 2026-27 season. The argument is that the Flyers probably won’t be that good until then, so when they get better he can put them over the top. However, if he is that good, can’t they use him sooner or later? Can’t they buy out his contract? Other Russian players have contracts overseas, but why is his contract a problem?
Michkov was also not present at the NHL Draft Combine. If he is this good, wouldn’t he want to show off his talents? Afterall, a player who is considered to be this good could’ve gone second overall. Why not show the whole NHL world how good you are? What is he hiding? Might he be one of these guys who are great overseas or in juniors but can’t perform at the NHL level?
Finally, what if he prefers the KHL over the NHL? Philadelphia hasn’t always had the best reputation when it came to Russian players. What if he decides to stay over there? Or what if political issues between Russia and the West cause a boycott between the KHL and the NHL? Or what if patriotism harkens him to stay in the Motherland rather than play in Philly? Time will tell.