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Carchidi: Flyers’ Matvei Michkov Stirs Memories of Lindros Mania

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Eric Lindros, Philadelphia Flyers
Center Eric Lindros had a Hall of Fame career, but the Flyers didn't make the playoffs with him until hi third season with the team.

Let’s face it: As far as excitement goes, the Philadelphia Flyers’ offseason would have been about a 2 on a scale of 10 if they hadn’t signed dynamic right winger Matvei Michkov and all but given him the keys to the franchise’s front door.

No major trades. No 2024 draft picks with can’t-miss pedigrees. No big-name free-agent signings.

But general manager Danny Briere did pull a rabbit out of a hat when Michkov – generally regarded as the second-best player in the 2023 draft before slipping to the Flyers at No. 7 because of non-hockey reasons — got out of his KHL contract two years early and announced he would join the Flyers for the upcoming season.

Suddenly, an expected boring season of mediocrity has turned into must-see hockey.

Oh, the Flyers will still be a mediocre team in 2024-25, but at least they will have their future star gaining invaluable experience and learning how to spread his creative wings in North America.

Creates a Buzz

Michkov’s signing has probably created more excitement, more buzz, than any Flyers prospect since Eric Lindros made his NHL debut in 1992.

But even Lindros didn’t turn the Flyers into instant contenders. Remember?

Michkov is 19 and will turn 20 during his rookie season. Just like Lindros did in 1992-93. During his first year, Lindros, whose style of play was extremely different than the much-smaller Michkov, was the ultimate power forward, collecting 41 goals and 75 points.

Still, that Flyers team went just 36-37-11 and failed to make the playoffs. And that team has a much stronger supporting cast than Michkov’s Flyers. As a rookie, Lindros had teammates like Mark Recchi (123 points that season) Rod Brind’Amour (86 points) and Kevin Dineen (35 goals).

The Flyers had a weak defense, however, and their goaltending — Tommy Soderstrom and Dominic Roussel were the main goalies — was shaky.

Philly didn’t make the playoffs with Lindros until his third season with the club.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the same thing happened to the rebuilding Flyers and Michkov.

Many Obstacles

Michkov’s Flyers will be short on offense, and the defense will be in the middle of the pack. It remains to be seen how goalies Sam Ersson and Ivan Fedotov will perform, but both are promising.

So to stay in the playoff hunt, the Philadelphia Flyers will have to scrap and outwork teams, like they did last season before a late collapse.

Michkov could be the focal point of the attack.

From the blue line out, “when he gets the puck, I think he’s going to pull all of you (media) guys right out of your seats, along with the fans at the Wells Fargo Center,” Riley Armstrong, the Flyers’ director of player development, said earlier this week. “So I don’t know how long it will take for him to adjust to the league, but once he figures it out and understands his linemates and stuff like that, I think he’s going to be a pretty special player.”

The biggest adjustment will be smaller NHL rinks than Michkov saw in Russia’s KHL. Flyers coach John Tortorella knows his prize rookie will have a learning curve.

“Over there, some rinks are big, and some rinks are the NHL size,” said Armstrong, who played briefly in the KHL in 2010-11. “So for him, I think just being in the defensive zone, worrying about that — I think playing for Torts, he’s going to learn that pretty quick — and just little board battles; kind of the stuff we were actually doing (at development camp) would be perfect for him.”

Michkov isn’t at development camp, so he will have a lot to absorb when regular camp rolls around in September. From all accounts, he is a quick learner. That and his eye-opening talent will make attending Flyers game an event.

Just like they were when the Big E was starting his career three-plus decades ago.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called “Bullies.” Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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