For most Philadelphia Flyers fans, eyes have been on the KHL as their regular season is underway. With that, Matvei Michkov would be making his full season debut with SKA St. Petersburg. The opening game came and Michkov was a healthy scratch. The second game came with the same outcome. Rumors began to swirl with different reasons that Michkov was not in the lineup to start the season.
The most common thought amongst people had to do with Michkov’s desire to play in the NHL. Flyers fans especially have seen a different scenario play out with Ivan Fedotov. He was signed to an NHL contract and was going to come play in North America…until he wasn’t. The battle to have him over is still ongoing and has seemingly made Flyers fans nervous about drafting players from Russia. There has especially been concern with Michkov’s lack of playing time in regard to him expressing his desire to play for the Flyers.
The truth of the matter is that younger players often have a hard time when they first play in the KHL. It’s a league that has a heavy emphasis on winning and tends to rely more on veteran players than those just entering the league. It has been clear with one of Michkov’s teammates, Ivan Demidov, as well. A top prospect for the 2024 NHL Draft, Demidov was used as the 13th forward in SKA’s first two games of the season. He was not in the lineup when Michkov made his debut on Wednesday afternoon.
In his limited appearances, Demidov played 8:28 in his first game and 12:22 in his second. Meanwhile, Michkov played just 6:12 in his season debut as SKA fell 4-3 to Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. This comes after an impressive preseason where Michkov had two goals and five points overall despite mostly playing on the fourth line and averaging just under 14 minutes per game. He was also learning a new position as well, potentially another way for him to earn more trust and tack on more playing time with it.
It’s going to be a give and take throughout SKA’s season. This likely won’t be the last time that Michkov is benched. There’s also a chance he could be loaned out in order to have more playing time. He found success in the VHL as well as when he was loaned to HC Sochi in the KHL last season. But at just 18 years of age, his youth and inexperience is why it is going to take time for him to gain more playing time in the KHL. The same happened when he played three games for SKA last season and barely averaged over three minutes in those games.
As time goes on and Michkov gains more experience, he should begin to see more minutes and fewer healthy scratches. It won’t be easy to watch and the Flyers likely wish it didn’t have to be this way. But it was well known before he was taken seventh overall this past summer that it was going to be a long journey. Right now, it’s about making the most of any playing time and proving that more is deserved. If Michkov can do that, he might just force his way into a more established role. For now, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.