15. Egor Sokolov (Reader Rank: 15, Last Year: 22)
The story of Egor Sokolov is an absolutely wild ride. Since being selected in the second round of the 2020 draft, Sokolov has gone from “reach” to “intriguing prospect” to “he might be really good?” The best part is that, even with the benefit of hindsight, you would have been totally justified in believing all of those things at their respective moments in time.
Sokolov was drafted as a double overager, meaning he was a full two years older than many of his fellow 2020 draftees. When you look at his numbers from his draft year, playing for Cape Breton in the QMJHL, he was obviously dominant. In a vacuum, 46 goals in 52 games at the CHL level is darn impressive. But when you take his age and size into account, the glow wears off a bit. After all, you would expect a 6’4”, 220 pound 20 year old playing against many scrawny 16 and 17 year-olds to destroy the competition. To his credit, destroy he did. So, naturally, coming into his rookie professional season with the Belleville Senators, many fans were watching the big Russian teddy bear closely to see if his overage season in the QMJHL was legitimate or another example of an older player dominating against young teenagers.
So far, Sokolov has done a lot to allay those fears.
Sokolov joined the BSens for the 2020-21 campaign and, after taking some time settling in, became a key fixture on Belleville’s top line. The youngster notched 15 goals and 25 points through 35 games. Projecting those totals over a full 76 game AHL season gets Sokolov to an impressive 32 goals in his rookie year. The last BSens rookie to clear 30 goals was none other than Josh Norris; although we should note here that he did it in just 56 games. Relative to his fellow rookies, Sokolov ranked 9th in points and led all AHL rookies in goal scoring.
Egor Sokolov scores 15th of the season in game #34— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) May 20, 2021
Sokolov became the first BSens player to hit double digits in both goals & assists this year with his 10th assist earlier in the game #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/Nh02mGnjsq
As mentioned, Sokolov hit these totals despite a relatively pedestrian start to the season. In his first 12 appearances in a BSens uniform, he managed four goals and two assists (0.5 points per game). In his final 23 games, he put up 11 goals and 8 assists (0.82 points per game). Once he settled into Belleville’s top six, Sokolov became a dangerous producer almost every singly night. It doesn’t take a lot of viewings to figure out that Sokolov has an elite skill: the ability to beat professional-level goalies from almost anywhere on the ice.
The most interesting question when it comes to Sokolov is what comes next. From an objective point of view, he likely needs at least one more full season in the AHL to reach his maximum potential. While his scoring ability is apparent, he’s still not the best skater. There are aspects of his defensive game that could also use a bit of polish. Some time in the AHL, particularly while working with a skating coach, has the potential to do him wonders. Dare I say it but think about Mark Stone when you consider Sokolov’s development. It would be unwise to project Sokolov at the same level as one of the very best players in the NHL, but many of the physical limitations that were holding back Stone are the same for Sokolov. These are things that can be worked on.
The Sens moved Evgenii Dadonov out of the organization this summer and have yet to replace him on the right side. As we head into camp, there aren’t four locks to play right wing. If the Senators don’t make any other moves, and wish to keep Colin White playing down the middle, it’s possible Sokolov could win a spot in the bottom six as early as opening night. If he does, then we might just get to see exactly how well his tantalizing skillset translates at the NHL level much sooner than we might have originally anticipated.