Here’s a little special edition article for you. Over the next few weeks, I will highlight the top prospects in different leagues around the globe.
Since the KHL season starts the earliest, this was the logical place to begin. The league has played more games, therefore, we have more prospect information to evaluate. KHL prospects also seem to get less attention than those playing in North America or even Europe (Matvei Michkov excluded). The KHL is a treasure trove of prospects for fantasy hockey leagues.
Now, I need to give a quick disclaimer. I am not a prospect expert. Nor am I pretending in any way to be one. I am simply a collector and sharer of information. The purpose is to bring my observations to your eyes and hopefully allow you to uncover a hidden gem.
Let’s dive in!
KHL Fantasy Prospect Review
Matvei Michkov, RW, Philadelphia Flyers
Drafted 2023, 1st Round, 7th Overall
Arguably the best player in the draft behind Connor Bedard, Michkov dropped to 7th overall in large part to his three-year KHL contract. He’s not eligible to join the Flyers until the 2026-27 season.
The hype between now and then will only grow. Twenty-eight games into the season and Michkov has 11 goals, and15 assists for 26 points. He turns 19 on December 5th.
Think Kirill Kaprisov with potential for upside from there. It’s a long wait, but it’ll be worth it. I waited almost this long for Kaprisov and acquired him cheaper than I should have. When Michkov arrives, expect an immediate impact.
Danila Yurov, RW, Minnesota Wild
Drafted 2022, 1st Round, 24th Overall
At 19, Yurov is playing 14:50 per game, which ranks 6th for forwards on Metallurg. He’s been very productive with 10 goals and 14 assists in 31 games, which ranks him second on the team in scoring.
The Wild landed a gem here. Yurov was often found ranked in the top ten leading up to the draft. He dropped in the draft due to factors beyond hockey. He signed a one-year contract in April, which means he can transition to North America as early as 2024-25. With the Wild entering year two of their $14.7 million buyout penalty, he could make the jump right away.
Alexander Nikishin, D, Carolina Hurricanes
Drafted 2020, Round 3, 69th Overall
To say Nikishin’s breakout in 2022-23 was unexpected would be an understatement. No one expected him to erupt for 55 points in 62 games. At the end of the 2021-22 season, Nikishin was thought of as a potential bottom-pairing defenceman. Oh how things have changed.
Fast forward 18 months and Nikishin sits with 26 points in 32 games to date, on pace to replicate 2022-23.
Patience will be key here. He’s under contract in the KHL through the 2024-25 season. This aligns with the expiry of Brent Burns’ contract. He could walk into a wide-open opportunity on the first power play unit.
At 6’4”, 216 lbs, Nikishin has the whole package. He’s a tantalizing prospect that should provide an immediate impact on your roster in 2025-26.
His 55 points are also the most points by a 21-year-old in KHL history. Ending with some food for thought.
Nikolai Kovalenko, LW/RW, Colorado Avalanche
Drafted 2018, Round 6, 171st Overall
Kovalenko is a bit older than the others on this list, at 24. But he is also a much shorter wait. He signed his entry-level contract with the Avalanche this summer. He was then loaned back to the KHL for the duration of the season.
Having the contract signed is key. It allows Kovalenko to join the Avalanche at the conclusion of the KHL season. With 24 points in 20 games, Kovalenko is doubling down on his 2022-23 breakout season (54 points in 56 games). He could very well slide into Colorado’s top six for the last eight to ten games of this season.
His arrival lines up with most fantasy hockey league’s semi-finals or finals. His impact could be immediate.
Bogdan Konyushkov, D, Montreal Canadiens
Drafted 2023, Round 4, 110th Overall
Konyushkov is an analytics darling. At 20, Konyushkov is playing over 22 minutes a game. In a league that does not favor young players, this is impressive.
He plays in all situations, 3:23 on the power play and 2:50 short-handed. He leads his team in ice time per game. Did I mention he’s 20? Konyushkov is also averaging .5 points per game.
He has top-four defenceman written all over him. Keep an eye on his development, there could be a lot more upside to uncover.
If nothing else, Bogdan Konyushkov is a fantastic hockey name. It sounds silly, but fantasy owners fall in love with names. There is name value here. This is a player I would treat more as an asset versus a dynasty building block and trade when his stock is at its highest.
Ivan Morozov, C, Vegas Golden Knights
Drafted, 2018, Round 2, 61st Overall
Like Kovalenko, Morozov has already signed with his NHL team. His contract also ends in April 2024. Expect Morozov to transition back to the Golden Knights for the 2024-25 season.
He is in the midst of a breakout season with 31 points in 30 games to date. After a disappointing season in the AHL (17 points in 58 games), Morozov returned to the KHL for the 2023-24 season. It appears another year in the KHL was the right decision by the player and team.
The Golden Knights are a deep team, Morozov will need a standout training camp next year to break into this lineup. There is a strong chance he will start the 2024-25 season in the AHL.
Mikhail Ilyin, F, Pittsburgh Penguins
Drafted 2023, Round 5, 141st Overall
This kid has skill and smarts. His first KHL goal was a thing of beauty. It showed off his hands and ability to puck handle in tight.
Through 36 games, he has 18 points. It should be noted, he’s 18 years old. The only other player under 20 years old with more points in the league is Michkov.
It is incredibly early to make any predictions on the upside and timeline. Like I said I am no expert. What I do know, he is currently tied for the 6th best season in the KHL by an 18-year-old. He needs nine more points to tie Kirill Kaprizov’s 27. This is no small feat.
Vasily Atanasov, F
He could be the next big UFA signing from the KHL, but he is a bit of a wild card. Under contract in the KHL until 2024-25, there is little to indicate whether he will test the NHL waters or re-sign in the KHL.
He’s 21 and his 32 points in 35 games puts him on pace for 60 points. This would break Nikishin’s record for most points by a player 21 or younger in the KHL. In 2021-22 he tore up the MHL as well, with 67 points in 54 games, including 39 goals.
If you’re wondering why he wasn’t drafted in either year of NHL draft eligibility, it is worth noting that he was listed at 5’8” and 137lbs a couple of years ago. He was on the small side, even for the ‘new NHL.’ He’s now 5’11”, much closer to average height.
It is worth checking out his highlight packages on YouTube. He holds a high-end offensive package.
Depending on your league rules, he’s worth the grab and stash. If your league doesn’t allow undrafted, unsigned prospects to be claimed (like the one I commish) then it is a player to watch closely and jump as soon as you can.
I like to think there’s Artemi Panarin or Kiril Kaprizov-level potential sitting here for the taking. It is unearthing players like Atanasov that make fantasy hockey exciting.
There are a lot more players to talk about, but space is limited. Hopefully, I can do a round two in 2024 and highlight a few more prospects from the KHL.
Thanks for reading.
(stats were pulled from QuantHockey; EliteProspects and KHL.com)
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