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McCagg: if Alex Kovalev were a more complete and consistent player, it would be Ivan Demidov
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot
Matvei Michkov was the talk of the town last year, with the 2023 draft featuring a crop brimming with talent.

Michkov is still piling up points this year in the KHL, one of the best leagues, if not the best league after the NHL.

The 19-year-old Russian has racked up 51 points in 63 games with HC Sochi in the two years to date.

Still impressive, if you compare his stats with those of Alex Ovechkin in his draft year and the year after his draft.

The Great 8 amassed a total of 50 points in 90 games.

Sure, 20 years later, the caliber of play in this league must have changed, but the fact remains that Mishkov has more points in nearly 30 fewer games than Ovechkin did in the same league at the same age.

Now there’s another Russian hopeful to enter the debate on the best Russian hopeful since Ovechkin.

Some have already heard of him, but he’s Ivan Demidov, who plays in the MHL, Russia’s junior league.

To help compare the different leagues, Patrick Bacon of Towards Data Science has published an article calculating the talent equivalence between each league compared to the NHL.

Here’s a quick overview, but I invite you to read the article to find out more.

(Credit: TowardsDataScience)
Demidov completely dominates the MHL right now, but if you look at the chart above, you can see that the MHL is equivalent to the USHL and also compares to the OHL and WHL.

In 23 games this season, Demidov has no fewer than 20 goals and a total of 45 points in his draft year, or almost two points per game.

By comparison, Nikita Kucherov, who also played in the MHL in his draft year, had 58 points in 41 games, or 1.41 points per game.

As for Michkov, he played in the KHL in his draft year and collected 20 points in 27 games, which is excellent for an 18-year-old.

On the face of it, Michkov and Demidov are two phenomena who will most likely dominate the NHL, but who will come out on top?

A few weeks before the start of the season, Grant McCagg said that Demidov is the best Russian prospect since Ovechkin, and therefore better than Michkov.

During an episode of The Sick Podcast – Recrutes, McCagg gave his opinion on the youngster after some twenty games played on his side this season, and nothing seems to have changed.

In the podcast excerpt above, McCagg made a bold comparison, saying that Demidov can be compared to a more complete, consistent and competitive Alex Kovalev.

Habs fans have all loved Kovalev’s time in Montreal, but have often deplored his lack of consistency and defensive shortcomings. Still, he was the last Tricolore player to score more than one point per game in a season.

To hear McCagg tell it, Demidov is clearly heavier than the sites show (168 pounds). He believes he’s closer to 190 pounds, as his weight hasn’t been up to date for nearly two years.

He also points out that he’s the most talented prospect in the 2024 crop, even with the likes of Macklin Celebrini and Cole Eiserman.

There’s still a similar scenario between the 2023 and 2024 drafts when there’s a Russian coming in to muddy the waters who’s extremely talented.

The only difference is that Demidov is signed to the KHL until the end of next season, 2024-2025, which is already a year earlier than the end of Mishkov’s contract.

Looking at the stats of Mishkov, Demidov, Kucherov and Ovechkin, it’s very hard to say who was or will be the best, because although they all played in Russia, some played in the KHL at different times, others in the MHL and even in the VHL, which is the KHL’s equivalent of the American League.

The existential question is, where will Demidov be drafted next? Will he fall like Mishkov, or will he make it into the top-3, or even cause a surprise by going first?

Depending on where the Habs draft him, I think that if he’s available, Kent Hughes should jump at it.

After all, who wouldn’t like to see a more complete and consistent Kovalev in Montreal?

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