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Had it not been for the war in Ukraine, Demidov would’ve been playing next season
Credit: Getty Images

Ivan Demidov became the Habs’ top prospect less than five days ago, and already we’re fond of  him. It feels like he’s been ours for months, if not years.

The praise for Demidov is abundant: he’s the forward drafted by the Habs with the best potential since… Guy Lafleur. That’s quite something!

Not to mention the fact that he would have given the Habs the best pre-draft interview since Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes took over from Marc Bergevin.

But when will we see him skating on a Quebec ice?

He is not present at the organization’s development camp, currently taking place in Brossard. He had applied for an American visa, but no Canadian one. He knew he was going to be in Vegas last week, but couldn’t foresee any activity in Canada this week.

Nor will he be present at the Canadiens’ rookie camp (and real training camp) in September, as the St. Petersburg SKA season kicks off on September 5 in Russia.

Reminder: Demidov, who spent most of last season in Russian junior, should really be playing in the KHL in 2024-25. He’s got the talent, he played a few games in the KHL in 2023-24… and Nick Bobrov’s father works for SKA. I’m pretty sure there won’t be a loan to Sochi and a Matvei Mishkov-like kid in Demidov’s case.

And if it does happen, you can bet that the Canadiens’ front office will try to buy out the last year of his contract and bring him to Montreal or Laval as early as the 2024-25 season. If the Flyers were able to buy out a few years of Mishkov’s contract, the Habs will certainly be able to buy out one of Demidov’s…

But I’m convinced it won’t have to be that way.

Demidov could therefore theoretically be in Montreal/Brossard in July 2025 for the organization’s development camp, but he’ll definitely be at the rookie camp and the team’s real camp in September 2025. That’s soon!

But there’s a scenario in which Demidov will arrive in Montreal long before that.

The SKA’s regular season ends on March 22, while the Canadiens’ ends on April 16. If SKA fails to make the playoffs (which would be very surprising), if SKA is eliminated in the first round, if Demidov is loaned out to another club that doesn’t make the playoffs, if Demidov plays in the Russian junior or second division and his team is eliminated, or if the Habs make the playoffs (you never know), Michkov could have time to play a game or two at the Bell Centre at the end of the season. Like Mailloux and Hutson this year…

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitri Orlov, Ivan Fedotov, Alexander Romanov… they all made the leap from the KHL to the NHL after their seasons in Russia. If the stars align, Ivan Demidov could also do the same…

Will he emulate some of his Russian compatriots?
(Credit: Candice Ward/Getty Images)

It used to be that the KHL season ended three or four weeks early and the Gagarin Cup was won at the beginning of April, but that will change this year. Too bad, because it would have virtually guaranteed Demidov’s presence in Montreal by the end of the 2024-25 season

The KHL liked to end its season before the start of the IIHF Senior World Championship, so as to be able to send more Russian players to the tournament. But with the Russian nation not present since the start of the war, the KHL has decided to push back its schedule by a few weeks…

The KHL schedule change still works against the Habs in the Demidov case (in the short term).

Remember that officially, the Habs can’t pay SKA to release Demidov before then. It’s illegal under the NHL collective agreement and/or IIHF rules. But you know, sometimes, behind the scenes…

One senses that Vladimir Putin would like to end his war with Ukraine… on his terms. There seems to be SLIGHTLY less tension between the West and Russia, even if Cuba has once again become hot territory. Any good news in new politics is also good news for the Canadians and their best prospect since Guy Lafleur… and he’s Russian.

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