Top 25 Under 25, #15: Egor Sokolov (Reader Rank: 14, Last Year: 15)
Egor Sokolov became a fan favourite shortly after being drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the second round in 2020, and has continued to endear himself to Sens fans throughout his time with the organization. He’s not just a good player but a fun personality as well, always cheerful and delivering great quotes. “Everybody’s going to be friends,” which Sokolov said in a rookie camp video last year, has become the unofficial slogan of this version of the Ottawa Senators. He’s also had a fascinating road to the NHL, as he was drafted as a double overager after being passed over twice. It’s difficult not to root for him.
Sokolov had a strong sophomore season with the Belleville Senators last year, even if he didn’t completely take off as I’m sure many would have liked him to. His 0.78 points per game was a slight improvement over the 0.71 he had put up the previous campaign, and he came just one goal short of the 20 goal mark. He was also the second-leading scorer on a relatively weak Belleville squad that bowed out in the first round of the play-offs.
2021-22 was an especially big season for the 22-year-old winger because he got his first ever taste of NHL action. Although Sokolov was never the big club’s first choice as a call-up, injuries meant that he forced his way into eight games. Unfortunately, he did not get on the scoresheet at all in the NHL, and played only fourth line minutes. In that short amount of time, Sokolov was more or less what anyone who watched him in the AHL would have expected: a big player with decent hockey sense who has a shot good enough to earn him a spot on an NHL powerplay — but whose skating is not yet good enough to keep up with the pace of an NHL game.
Skating has been an issue for Sokolov all throughout his career. Based on interviews, it sounds like he and the Sens’ development staff are aware of this shortcoming of his, and working on it. Luckily for him, lots of prospects who struggle with skating end up doing just fine in the NHL - Mark Stone being the obvious example. That improvement does need to happen, though, if Sokolov is going to turn into a top six forward.
With this player, the Sens appear to be using the tried-and-true method of letting him outgrow the AHL before bringing him up to the big club. Sokolov will need to find yet another gear next season if he wants to earn a spot in Ottawa.
Egor Sokolov's stick broke in the shootout, but that didn't stop him from scoring. #BSens #GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/lJpiPle2jH— Jacob Stoller (@JLStoller) March 12, 2022
It might seem like all the improvements the Sens have made at forward will result in fewer opportunities for Egor to succeed, but I actually suspect this might work in his favour. He’s a good complementary player with great hockey IQ, but he can’t carry his own line, and last year Ottawa just didn’t have enough talent up front to give him good linemates. This year, that could very well change. If a top player gets injured, D.J. Smith could plug Sokolov into the top of the lineup and count on very good players to carry him, or put him next to Pinto on the third line. He could get a real chance to prove himself.
Even in Belleville, the sniper might get more opportunities to put up points this year, because there’s a good chance Ridly Greig will spend significant time with the team. I may be getting ahead of myself here, but a first line with Greig’s playmaking skills and Sokolov’s shot could really be something to watch.
Egor Sokolov makes a wicked move to set Cole Reinhardt up! #GoSensGo— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) April 21, 2022
That's three unanswered goals for Belleville in a pivotal contest. pic.twitter.com/IxQJVYSw3g
At 22, Sokolov remains one of the top prospects in the organization. He’s not a sure thing, but if he can work on his skating and put up a good season in Belleville, he could see NHL action sooner rather than later.