The Highlight Reel: The Best Of Will Smith, Leo Carlsson, And Matvei Michkov

By Ed Francis on May 8, 2023 at 8:31 pm

The odds said the Blue Jackets would likely fall in the lottery and select third or fourth.

The odds were right.

But that doesn't mean that the Blue Jackets are losers in the draft.

In a historically deep draft, Columbus will likely be choosing from three players, each who bring a unique set of skills to the game. Here's a look at those three players and the very best of what they have to offer:

Will Smith 

Our own Dan Dukart: "His production at the U18 level was impressive, and he was recently named MVP of the U18 World Championships. ... The 5'11" right-shot center is likely to play one, maybe two seasons at BC before making the jump to pro hockey."

Smith is a Massachusetts native whose upcoming stint at Boston College keeps him close to home while he tunes his game up for the NHL level.  

Leo Carlsson

Dukart: "He's toggled back and forth from center to wing, and it's unclear where he projects long-term. Given his profile (versatility, nationality, skillset, frame, etc.), he's compared to Colorado Avalanche star forward Mikko Rantanen. Carlsson already has two years of professional hockey in the SHL under his belt before his draft year and he's shown well."

Matvei Michkov

Dukart: "Michkov is arguably the best Russian prospect since Alexander Ovechkin. Other Russian stars, like Artemi Panarin (undrafted), Kirill Kaprizov (fifth round), and, to a lesser extent, Nikita Kucherov (second round), all had at least some warts in their pre-draft evaluations. Not so with Michkov, who is seen as a can't-miss talent."

Michkov, 18, will spend the next three years in Russia's KHL, so his trajectory would similar to that of Kirill Marchenko. He will likely enter the NHL as a 21-year-old, and while that's still plenty young, it does put him a few years behind other top prospects.

Michkov is also going through personal tragedy right now, as his father passed away last month. Details are scarce, with "unexplained circumstances" being as close to a reason as anyone has given. He was found near a pond in Sochi, Russia on April 5th after missing for three days. Our condolences to the entire Michkov family.

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