Weekly Question: Will Egor Sokolov be a Top 6 Winger?
A strong rookie season has put Egor Sokolov in the mix for a future role with the Ottawa Senators but the role in question remains to be seen.
When Egor Sokolov was selected with the 61st pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, there were mixed reactions. Those who questioned the pick were right to do so. After all, Sokolov was selected as a 20 year old, two year after he was first eligible. His goal scoring prowess in the QMJHL was evident, of course, but at the end of the day, the number of players who get passed over in the draft and end up becoming every day NHLers is relatively low.
Then came his rookie season in Belleville. For the first few games of the season, Sokolov looked okay. He made some plays but nothing came of it. Then, on February 19th, Sokolov recorded his first AHL point. From there, Sharkolov™ was born. In the 27 games that followed, Sokolov scored 14 goals and added 7 assists for a cool 21 points. In a normal year, a healthy Sokolov would play 76 games in the AHL so his 0.46 goals per game would have him on pace for a 35 goal rookie season. Not bad, right?
The Ottawa Senators appear to have a very full stable of young current and future NHLers that we, as fans, find ourselves tripping over reasons to believe each and every prospect we have is as good as Tim Stützle, Josh Norris or Drake Batherson. So, the question becomes, where does Sokolov fit in? Will he be a top six winger or more of a bottom six player with some time on the secondary power play unit? Will he even be a full-time NHL player at all?
This brings us to our weekly question. Will Egor Sokolov be a top six winger for the Ottawa Senators in the future?
There’s a decent argument to be made here. While fans, myself included, questioned whether or not Sokolov’s goal scoring at the QMJHL level as a 6’4” 20 year old grown adult could lead to success at the NHL level, he proved the doubters wrong in his rookie AHL season. His 14 goals has him tied for fifth in goal scoring in the AHL and tied for first amongst rookies. His 0.7 points per game ranks him 17th amongst all skaters with at least 10 games played this season.
Sokolov, currently in his DY+3 season, ranks 7th amongst his peers in primary points per game and 6th for even strength primary points per game. His performance this season ranks amongst other impressive young players like Liam Foudy, Ryan McLeod and Akil Thomas.
Sokolov’s shot is lethal. When you look back on the season highlights and see where Sokolov scored from and how, you’ll notice that he wasn’t a player to score on a fluke. He picked his spot and blew it past the goaltender. His shot, specifically, is definitely already ready for the NHL.
🚨Egor Sokolov cannot be stopped, that's 7 goals in his last 7 games!— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) April 16, 2021
Nifty setup by Vitaly Abramov too. He's put up 16 points in his last 13GP - only going pointless twice during that stretch👀#GoSensGo pic.twitter.com/vE5jDg4Nhi
When you watch Sokolov play, you can see that he thinks the game at a higher level than many of his opponents in the AHL. You frequently catch him making sneaky dishes, stealing pucks and winning puck battles. I’m not comparing him to this player because I find it quite dangerous to put star studded names next to a prospect and put those kinds of expectations on the shoulders of a 20 year old rookie but, from time to time, he’s game reminds me of Mark Stone.
Speaking of Mark Stone, one of the reasons I believe Egor Sokolov may not become a high impact player for the Ottawa Senators is for the same reason Stone’s ability to do so was questioned - his skating.
Sokolov is a big, rugged winger. He works the boards well and has one heck of a shot. But he’s definitely missing the step it will take for him to get to the NHL in a full-time role. It’s not that he’s incapable of skating quickly, it’s really the first step the hampers him. Once he gets going, his combination of speed and size makes him tough to defend against but his ability to get there is, in my opinion, not close to where it would need to be to be a bonafide top six right winger in the big leagues.
The other knock to Sokolov’s chances come from his overall point production. Yes, he scores goals and scores them well but, overall, his even strength and primary point production doesn’t compare to high end wingers at a similar stage. There’s a perfect example of this right under our noses. In Drake Batherson’s rookie year, he led all DY+3 skaters with 0.81 primary points per game. Sokolov has only managed 0.55 primary points per game with only a few games left in the season. Interestingly, Sokolov’s primary points per game stats closely resemble that of Logan Brown in his DY+3 season.
At the end of the day, the Sens have a player of intrigue in Egor Sokolov. He scores goals with the best of AHLers and he’s been a top player for Belleville in his rookie season. That being said, he’s overall point production in his DY+3 season hasn’t exactly dazzled and his skating will need somewhere between some and a lot of improvement to cut it at the next level.
So, do you think Sokolov has what it takes to become a top six winger for the Ottawa Senators or are you expecting him to either play a bottom six role or, perhaps, no role at all?
Where will Egor Sokolov end up in the Sens lineup in the future?