Flyers first-rounder Matvei Michkov leaving KHL for NHL

Philadelphia Flyers draftee Matvei Michkov is leaving his KHL club SKA St. Petersburg to join the NHL this offseason.

The 19-year-old winger was selected by the Flyers with the seventh pick of the 2023 NHL draft. Michkov projects as a top-six, if not top-line, winger who could be used on the power play.

But drafting Michkov also came with the uncertainty of when he would leave Russia for North America.

"After much thought, I decided to try my hand at the NHL," Michkov said in a statement released by SKA that was later translated into English. "I want to say a huge thank you to the management of SKA for meeting this issue. I immediately indicated my position that I want to only play for SKA -- no exchanges and leases. I will make my way to the NHL, and but if I return to the KHL, I will only play in St. Petersburg."

Michkov played one game for SKA and then spent the remainder of the 2023-24 season on loan at KHL club HK Sochi. He scored 19 goals and 41 points in 47 games in what was his first full season playing in Russia's top professional league.

In the 2022-23 season, Michkov played three games for SKA and was on loan at HK Sochi, where he scored nine goals and 20 points in 27 games while also spending time in developmental leagues such as the VHL and MHL.

His arrival comes in an offseason in which the Flyers will seek to build upon the progress they made in the 2023-24 season. The club hired John Tortorella prior to the start of the 2022-23 season to take over a young roster that was in a rebuild. The Flyers finished 31-38-13 and were 16 points adrift of the final Eastern Conference wild-card place.

A year later, Tortorella guided a slightly improved version of the Flyers that finished 38-33-11 and five points out of the final wild-card spot.

"The decision was not easy, but I feel that it was right," Michkov said. "I am full of strength and desire to prove that I deserve to play there."

He added that he was motivated by his father, Andrey, who died in 2023.

"It was my father's long-standing dream: He really wanted to see my debut in the NHL, and it is extremely important for me to take this step, including for his sake," Michkov said. "I'm sure he would support me in this."