The Philadelphia Flyers own the rights to five players in Russian-based hockey leagues. Out of these five players, four are considered prospects. The field of players in Russia consists of two forwards and three goalies, ranging in age from 18 to 27 years old. Five of these players represent clubs in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), with one having played goal for a Junior Hockey League (JHL) team and an All-Russian Hockey League (VHL) team this season.
The KHL, an international professional hockey league with 23 teams, is considered the second-best professional league in the world behind the NHL. With the majority of teams (20) located in Russian territory, the league also has teams located in the nations of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and China. Recent NHL standouts who spent time in the KHL include Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Ilya Mikheyev, and Nikita Zaitsev.
The JHL, the top tier of junior hockey in Eurasia, consists of 31 teams located primarily in Russia, with one located in Belarus and Kazakhstan, respectively. At times, the JHL is also referred to as the Minor Hockey League (MHL) by English-speaking analysts. Teams in this league are subsidiaries or feeder teams for their affiliated KHL and VHL clubs. The VHL is the second-highest level of Russian professional hockey. Of the 29 teams in this league, most maintain an affiliation with a KHL and MHL club.
Drafted seventh overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft by the Flyers, right wing Matvei Michkov is under contract with the KHL club SKA Saint Petersburg. This five-year contract with the club is expected to keep him in Russia until the 2025-26 season. Michkov played one game this season with SKA Saint Petersburg before getting placed on loan on Sept. 12 to HC Sochi for the remainder of the season. Last season, the young Russian star appeared in 27 games for the HC Sochi, scoring nine goals and tallying 11 assists.
Michkov, who turns 19 years old on Dec. 9, has appeared in 29 games for HC Sochi this season, recording 26 points (11 goals and 15 assists). Some analysts considered Michkov one of the best players in this past summer’s draft, with his position falling due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. He is considered by scouting reports to be a player who brings every offensive tool a club could want to the table. The Elite Prospects 2023 NHL Draft Guide stated that “His ability to problem-solve his way out of defensive pressure is at a level all its own.”
Selected 78th overall in the third round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by the Flyers, Alexei Kolosov was considered the second-best European goaltender in the draft. The Flyers signed the Belarusian to a three-year, entry-level contract on July 8, 2023, and placed him on loan for developmental purposes to the KHL club Dinamo Minsk. Kolosov is at home with Dinamo Minsk, having spent parts of the last three seasons with the club.
Last season, Kolosov appeared in 42 games for Dinamo Minsk, recording a 2.55 goals against average (GAA) and .912 save percentage (SV%). Kolosov turns 22 years old on Jan. 4 and is considered the Flyers’ top prospect at goaltender. This season, Kolosov has appeared in 25 games, winning nine of these contests, and has a 2.35 GAA and .908 SV%.
At 27 years old, Finnish-born Russian goaltender Ivan Fedotov is the oldest player in Russia whose NHL rights are under contract with the Flyers. Selected by the Flyers 188th overall in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Draft, Fedotov’s transition from the KHL to the NHL has been delayed due to military service requirements in Russia. He signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the Flyers on May 7, 2022, as a free agent.
When he attempted to depart Russia in July 2022 to join the Flyers, he was arrested by Russian authorities in Saint Petersburg for alleged evasion of military service. With the memorandum of understanding between the NHL and KHL suspended due to sanctions placed on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, Fedotov signed a two-year contract to continue playing with CSKA Moscow, further delaying his ability to join the Flyers.
Fedotov missed the 2022-23 KHL season, but his 2021-22 season was filled with several accomplishments on the ice. He represented the Russian Olympic Committee during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, where he helped the team win a silver medal. Fedotov was also a key part of CSKA Moscow’s 2021-22 KHL Gagarin Cup-winning campaign, when he won 14 of 26 appearances. In 21 games this season, Fedotov has a 2.26 GAA and .912 SV%.
Selected 87th overall in the third round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft by the Flyers, goaltender Yegor Zavragin is currently assigned to the MHL junior club Mamonty Yugry. In nine games this season with Marmonty Yugry, he has a GAA of 1.63 and SV% of .945. Zavragin has also seen action in the professional ranks of the VHL the last two seasons. In six VHL games this season with Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk, the 18-year-old has a 0.99 GAA and .964 SV%.
Mikhail Vorobyov (a.k.a Mikhail Vorobyev)
Center Mikhail Vorobyov should be no stranger to Flyers fans. Vorobyov, who turns 27 years old on Jan. 5, appeared in 15 games for the Flyers during the 2018-19 season and another 20 games during the 2019-20 season. Having spent the bulk of his time playing professionally in North America with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Vorobyov returned to Russia as an impending restricted free agent for the 2020-21 season.
Salavat Yulaev Ufa traded the center to SKA Saint Petersburg leading up to the 2021-22 season, a team he continues to represent in the KHL. Last season, he recorded 39 points in 59 games for SKA Saint Petersburg. This season, Vorobyov is playing very well with the club, having recorded 23 points (nine goals and 14 assists) in 31 games.
Keep an Eye on the Russians (and Belarusian)
It is important for Flyers fans to keep an eye on the franchise’s prospects playing overseas in Russia, as they are considered crucial options for the big league roster in coming years. The KHL has a proven track record of helping to develop successful NHL players, dating back to its founding in 2008. For the Flyers prospects in Russia, this professional experience may prove to be extremely valuable for a group of players who seek to be the franchise’s stars of the future.