23.06.2023 в 14:30

“Michkov is a game-changer”. How the player became the biggest JHL star


Unbelievable records, scoring masterpieces and winning the Kharlamov Cup – the forward’s journey in the Junior Hockey League.

Over the past few seasons, Matvei Michkov has proved to be the most talked about JHLer. The forward is possessed of the brilliant talent that shines brighter year after year. Over a space of three seasons, Matvei has worked his way from a rookie who smashed down the door to the new league as a SKA-1946 player to the hero of Stupino Kapitan, the team he joined after being loaned to Sochi. The period between his first game in the League and the last playoff game with the Stupino team is filled with dozens of scoring masterpieces, 134 points in 111 games and Kharlamov Cup championship.  

Beating out Kucherov and Kaprizov

Those who follow the JHL became aware of the fact that Michkov is a hockey player of exceptional talent right from his first season in the League. The forward stood out of the crowd even back in those days when he was a hockey school trainee. It was not for nothing that Yaroslavl Lokomotiv lured the wonder kid away from Perm Molot when he was nine years old. Then SKA started hunting for 15-year-old Michkov to later sign him to a five-year contract. The duration of the contract speaks for the level of the forward, since long contracts are pretty rare in Russia regardless of players’ age. Matvei broke several records, including the most goals and points scored by a U17 JHLer beating out Nikita Kucherov, Kirill Kaprizov, Mikhail Grigorenko.

– Michkov’s puck skills are great, he reads and processes the play at an advanced level and thinks out of the box. Matvei is not the biggest players, but he often demonstrates immense creativity, makes his decisions quickly and executes on them, that is why so many of his slot shots go in the net. Michkov plays smart during puck battles. Not only does he demonstrate his body checking or stickhandling skills, but also uses some creative moves.

Artyom Batrak, KHL TV broadcaster 

Matvei doesn’t have elite size or speed. But the things he does with the puck strike the imagination. His ability to problem-solve his way out of defensive pressure is at a level all its own. He can both make a shot and a quick move into a pass. Nose for the net is something a player either has or he hasn’t. In Matvei’s case, we see that he knows how to play offense so as to create problems for defensemen and goalies. Agility and good hockey IQ allow him to score lacrosse-style goals that annoy netminders, fascinate fans, and give Matvei himself an added boost of confidence. 

Rapid progress 

The forward talks casually about scoring lacrosse-style goals. Like, you scoop the puck onto the blade of your stick, check where the goalie is and then whip the stick around the net to either tuck the puck in a top corner or a bit lower, plain and simple. As easy as one-two-three. Of course, such confidence and skills did not appear from thin air. All this result from working hard on the ice and in the gym from the young age. 

I used to spend all my time at arena. I was by no means a merry-maker. I was spending every waking moment on practicing. My parents and I used to go to a mall or a cinema once a month, that’s about it.

Matvei Michkov

The progress of each hockey player is estimated over time. In the span of three years in the JHL, the forward has grown into the main star of the League. The star that didn’t vanish in the Silver Division team – Kapitan, that Michkov joined for the play-in tournament. Matvei knew some of the players from playing for Sochi and his previous JHL seasons. It didn’t take him long to get adjusted, understand the system and build chemistry with his linemates. Michkov helped Kapitan win the play-in round, but the team failed to beat the defending champion - SKA-1946. The circumstances weighed heavily against the young talent, he was credited with only one assist in three games against his former teammates.   

North American journalists are also delighted with Matvei’s talent. The Athletic called Michkov a game-changer. 

Matvei Michkov is worth the risk. At some point, the talent is so massive that you take the gamble. Michkov is a game-changer. He gets the highest grades on his pure skill level and hockey sense. In my opinion, there is a significant drop in ability from Michkov to Carlsson. (Leo Carlsson, another 2023 NHL Draft prospect - JHL note).

Corey Pronman, The Athletic

Being with Sochi, Michkov quickly became the leading player. The loan redounded to both the player’s and the club’s advantage. Matvei played in the KHL, was on the special teams, played responsible shifts late in games. The player added offensive creativity to Sochi’s game and was not afraid of playing against men. Michkov’s time with Sochi was short, but memorable, even Matvei’s jersey became the top-selling one compared to those of other players of the team. The forward admitted that he was glad he had been loaned to Sochi and would not mind to spend the 2023/24 season with them. Michkov’s future is to be mapped out by SKA management. One thing is for certain: the forward is fully prepared for the KHL and will be of benefit to any club – whether it’s the contender for the Gagarin Cup from St. Petersburg or the team from Sochi that dreams of clinching a playoff berth.