Standout NHL prospects at the Karjala Cup

Eetu Siltanen

2021-11-19

I was fortunate to attend the Karjala Cup in Helsinki last week, a men’s tournament on the international level, and there was plenty of future talent on the ice throughout the event. Between players that have already been drafted and players that are expected to be drafted in the next year or two, there were 27 NHL prospects in total, but I tried to concentrate on the most relevant ones. Russia led the way sending 19 NHL prospects to the tournament, the Czech’s sent four, and each of Finland and Sweden sent two. Here are my observations on the NHL hopefuls from the 2021 Karjala Cup:

RUS #39 Matvey Michkov (2023) / 3 GP – 1G 1A 2PTS – 0 PIM

W / 5-10 – 159 lbs / 2004-12-09 / left

Still just 16-years-old, Michkov was really good in the tournament and already looks like a future NHL star. In his debut, he had a bit of a slow start and he was playing on the fourth line but after that first game tension, Michkov was really good in the rest of the games. Against Sweden, he scored an amazing lacrosse-style goal and started to gain more confidence, which improved throughout the tournament more and more. Michkov is amazingly versatile and he can do just about everything in terms of his offensive game. He can build a rush, deke players, give great passes, or shoot the puck by himself. He can control the puck in the offensive zone and is constantly looking for free space when off the puck. Someone might criticize his shot selection but basically every shot he takes is surprising and dangerous, and it seems that he has unlimited ways to score a goal. What is really unique is that he can score a goal without even having a scoring chance; his lacrosse-style goal and assist (shot off the dead angle, teammate buried a rebound) were great examples of that. Michkov’s motor was also great, as he created multiple turnovers and created a play of those situations, whether it was a pass, shot, or a deke. He was also able to run Russia’s top PP unit, which is – again – exceptional at his age; he controls the puck, can create with his vision, or just terrorize goaltenders by shooting the puck himself. There’s obviously a long way to go but at this point I see Michkov having the potential to become one of the best players in the world.

RUS #22 Marat Khusutdinov (MIN) / 3 GP – 0G 2A 2PTS – 0 PIM

W / 5-11 – 176 lbs / 2002-07-17 / left

Khusnutdinov is a fast skating, skilled playmaker with a responsible two-way game. He looked really good, playing with a great motor and high energy. For a smallish player, he protects the puck very well and has the skills and vision to create plays both in the offensive zone (i.e his second assist which was an amazing backdoor cross-crease pass) and off the rush. He isn’t afraid of the dirty areas and for his size, his physicality is more than adequate. He showed some electric skating and great top speed, and his pivots in the offensive zone dropped the defender off his back multiple times. Khusnutdinov isn’t only a good offensive player, he also is a responsible defensive player despite finishing the tournament with a minus-3 -rating. He showed some really good backchecking a few times and played solid on the penalty kill. I really liked Khusnutdinov in the tournament and while he might not have the highest NHL certainty, I see that he has a pretty good chance of becoming a good NHL player for Minnesota in the future.

RUS #10 Dmitri Voronkov (CBJ) / 3 GP – 2G 1A 3PTS – 14 PIM

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