2019-20 Team: Cape Breton Eagles
Date of Birth: June 7, 2000
Place of Birth: Yekaterinburg, RUS
Ht: 6’4” Wt: 223 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2018 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 73rd (Among NA skaters)
- The Hockey Writers (Fisher): 96th
- The Hockey Writers (Bell): 144th
Coming into his third and final NHL Entry Draft, Cape Breton Eagles winger Egor Sokolov may just be the definition of a polarizing player. With an impressive 46-goal, 92-point campaign, the hulking 6-foot-4 Russian finished third in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) scoring behind only Alexis Lafreniere and Alexander Khovanov, and yet Sokolov has been passed over in two consecutive drafts. Will he finally find a home with an NHL club on the heels of his breakout 2019-20 season, or are there simply too many holes in his game to ignore?
Related: THW’s 2020 Draft Guide
Let’s start with the good: at 6-foot-4 and over 220 pounds, Sokolov is a behemoth and knows how to use his size to his advantage. Former Eagles head coach Marc-André Dumont described the winger as a prototypical power forward with an ability to protect the puck. (from ‘Cape Breton Screaming Eagles pick Russian forward Yegor Sokolov at import draft,’ Cape Breton Post, 06/28/2017) On top of that, Sokolov was praised for his puck skills, vision, and finishing touch by NHL Central Scouting way back in his first draft year. With 46 goals and 46 assists this season, you can clearly see what the scouts were talking about.
However, as with any prospect, there are always drawbacks, and for Sokolov those weaknesses have been glaring enough to keep him off most scouts’ radars so far. In 2018, Bill Placzek of Draftsite.com referred to Sokolov as a “pony [that] has only one trick” – namely his lethal shot. “He really has trouble moving his feet and being a 200-foot player,” Placzek said, adding that it would take at least a few seasons to iron out the winger’s “heavy boot issues.”
Ultimately what we see in Sokolov is a big, strong, relatively skilled power forward with a mix of finishing and playmaking ability, but questions about his skating and conditioning have held him back from an NHL career so far. Previously listed as heavy at 240 pounds, Sokolov trimmed himself down to 223 pounds this season, presumably to help address those aforementioned weaknesses, though it remains to be seen if he’s done enough to put himself on the radar of NHL scouts this time around.
THW’s Larry Fisher has been a huge proponent of Sokolov’s game, ranking him as the sixth-best overager for 2020 and the 10th-fastest riser up his draft rankings. “He made significant strides with his skating – and presumably took a big step with his conditioning – so the third time should be the charm for Sokolov and he might just emerge as this year’s top overager,” said Fisher, citing the Russian’s three-goal, four-point performance at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships this past winter.
Now there will naturally be questions about Sokolov’s production as it relates most obviously to his age – let’s be honest, it’s not exactly rare for a 20-year-old to dominate primarily against teenagers – but we also have to give credit where it’s due: the winger’s scoring skyrocketed from .84 points-per-game last season to 1.77 this year – nearly one point more per game! That kind of year-to-year growth can’t be ignored, and certainly lends credence to the notion that Sokolov may truly be a late bloomer that’s still figuring out his game.
The other worry, though, is that the jump in scoring could be heavily attributed to his linemates. Sokolov started the season with centre Ryan Francis (24-48-72), who’s now touted as a potential second-round pick, and Shawn Boudrias (35-44-79), the 2018 sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild. For some context of the line’s dominance, they tallied 14 goals and 33 combined points in their first five games together – nothing short of video game numbers.
That chemistry carried throughout the entire season as each player set huge career highs in scoring, with Francis doubling his previous best and Sokolov nearly doing the same. This begs the obvious question: is Sokolov (or Francis, or Boudrias) really this good, or did the trio’s chemistry help them become more than the sum of their parts? It’s tough to say, but scouts will have to wonder if Sokolov’s apparent jump was a product of his development or just catching lightning in a bottle with the right linemates at the right time.
Other THW Draft Profiles
Egor Sokolov – NHL Draft Projection
Sokolov’s rankings are all over the place, varying from late third-round to unranked. Frankly, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a team take a chance on him in the middle rounds, but it also wouldn’t be unheard of if he went undrafted again based on his skating, issues, and age.
“Sokolov always had the size and the shot, but his skating was poor to put it politely. Part of that was probably conditioning and with more commitment to being a pro this season, Sokolov was keeping up just fine at the World Juniors and proving tough to contain for all of Russia’s opponents. He made significant strides with his skating — and presumably took a big step with his conditioning — so the third time should be the charm for Sokolov and he might just emerge as this year’s top overager.” – Larry Fisher, The Hockey Writers
“This is large kid who simply can wire the puck. No hesitation, pick a spot, and the cannon fires. Was part of the Russian World Junior team that showed poorly in the Under-18 World Junior. He was given strong linemates, a nice pair of distributing defensemen, and he had only one goal to show for the bevy of shots he took. Was used as a power play guy based on his shot. The problem is that is this pony has only one trick; he really has trouble moving his feet and being a 200 foot player. I am not sure if he will garnish enough attention for a team to jump up and spend a few seasons working the heavy boot issues out. There are enough North Americans who have skating deficits in the class too. They would try to turn them from Brian Boyle the lead foot to Boyle the centre. And many never really get to the NHL level. In his case, that powerful aura of sniper might get some team calling his name.” – Bill Placzek, Draftsite.com
- Puck protection
- Size and strength
- 200-foot play
Already 20 years of age, it’s difficult to predict whether Sokolov can carve out a career for himself in the NHL. His breakout 2019-20 season will certainly raise some eyebrows, but it’s not as if this type of overage production is a guarantee of NHL potential. If Sokolov does continue to progress, he may just find a role as a bottom-six winger with his size and scoring touch.
Risk – 4/5, Reward – 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 6.5/10, Defence – 5/10
Sokolov represented Russia at the World Junior Hockey Championships for the first time this past winter, collecting three goals and one assist in seven games.
Eagles’ Sokolov brings NHL training camp experience back to Cape Breton for QMJHL season (from ‘Eagles’ Sokolov brings NHL training camp experience back to Cape Breton for QMJHL season,’ Cape Breton Post, 10/04/2019)
Chris Faria is a contributor for The Hockey Writers with a focus on the Toronto Maple Leafs. A hockey player and self-proclaimed analytics nerd, his work aims to combine both stats and a deep knowledge of the game. He is currently pursuing a graduate diploma in sports journalism at Centennial College in Toronto.