Scouts called him the best Russian prospect in decades, perhaps the best since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin days. No draft-eligible prospect had managed the production rate Michkov did with Sochi, the worst team in the KHL by a mile. If it wasn’t for his contract situation and other general mysteries surrounding Michkov, he could have gone as high as second overall in 2023.
But could Michkov’s SKA St. Petersburg teammate, Ivan Demidov, become an even better prospect?
If you’ve been following hockey Twitter over the past two weeks or so, you’ve seen plenty of Ivan Demidov ripping shots past professional hockey goalies. A junior-aged player getting ample ice time isn’t completely unheard of in the KHL pre-season – it’s August after all, and the veterans wouldn’t mind the time off.
Demidov has two goals and four points in four preseason games, with Demidov playing a key role with St. Petersburg in early tournament action. He had eight shots in a game against Avangard Omsk, while averaging six throughout. Demidov is doing that all while averaging 14:20 a night, too.
A late 2005-born forward, Demidov had 19 goals and 64 points in 44 MHL games last year, the top Russian junior league. It was the best output ever seen by a U-18 player in league history, besting the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Gusev and, yes, Michkov. Michkov had 56 points in 56 games as a 16-year-old, so his dominance can’t be understated. But for Demidov, he’s the only Draft-1 player to break the 60-point mark.
The MHL isn’t exactly known for its stellar goaltending, but Demidov still looked a cut above the rest. And he even skated in two KHL regular season games, which included him playing 11:47 against Amur back in January.
Demidov and Michkov playing together has allowed scouts to see how they stack up. It’s not a fair comparison, given Michkov is a year older, but you can tell he has an extra step in his game. There’s absolutely no doubt about it that Michkov is going to have an excellent KHL season. Born 366 days apart from each other, the two of both come through the SKA latter around the same time. Michkov’s numbers were better through much of it, especially internationally. That’s something Demidov has very little experience with due to Russia being banned from international competition, outside of local tournaments.
What Demidov has shown is he can handle tougher, older competition. He always played in older age groups, dominating the scoring charts everywhere he has played. That’s exactly what Michkov did, too. In a way, Michkov can be a mentor – he understands the pressure of being a top prospect in a quality European pro league. That’s a whole other animal.
Some scouts think Demidov will be better than Michkov. My opinion? It’s definitely close, but I’m not making that determination in the middle of August. And you shouldn’t either. It’s also really easy to overvalue a prospect playing preseason games in the summer when the North American leagues aren’t even close to training camp.
It’s worth noting that Demidov’s KHL deal lasts until the end of 2024-25. So the wait for him, at least for now, will be shorter than Michkov’s.
From a styilistic perspective, Demidov has so much going for him. He’s extremely creative, has quick hands, is good on his feet and makes smart decisions with the puck. Demidov will beat players with a stutter-step move that leaves a defenseman confused, and his release is incredible deceptive, in a few ways. He’ll lull you into thinking he’s going up high before beating a goaltender between the legs. Other times, he’ll wind up before purposely shooting much softer. Scouts love his release, but it’s how he chooses to use it that makes him difficult to stop.
“Demidov has so much high-end, projectable skill,” a scout said. “He can skate, shoot, read plays, all at an extremely high level. Size isn’t a concern. The overall package is very translatable to the NHL.”
It’ll be interesting to see what Demidov is capable of this year. He’ll likely see time in the KHL and MHL, just like Michkov. At this point, Demidov is a top five prospect, and some think he has a legitimate shot at challenging Macklin Celebrini and Cole Eiserman for first overall.
Regardless, the fact a prospect is getting this much attention online in August shows the appetite for prospects hasn’t gone away. We’re in for a treat.
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