Today, we take a look at a big, potential power forward prospect out of Russia by way of the QMJHL, Yegor Sokolov. Could the Devils, a team always on the lookout for Yegors, look to spend a later round pick on the winger?
Who is Yegor Sokolov?
Yegor Sokolov is a forward from Yekaterinburg, Russia who made his way across the Atlantic last summer via the CHL Import Draft. Sokolov is a big-bodied winger who played this past season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL. Coming in at 6’-4” and 225 pounds at just 17 years of age, Sokolov is not hurting for size by any stretch. The big winger was selected 35th in the Import Draft after dominating the Russian U-17 division and putting in a solid performance at the U-17 WHC. Heading into the 2018 draft with a June 2000 birthday, Sokolov will be one of the younger draft-eligible players out there.
Production wise, Sokolov’s first season could probably be best described as “okay” for a player with NHL Draft aspirations. He put up 21 goals and 42 points in 64 games for Cape Breton, which is solid for a CHL rookie, but also not great for a player in their draft year, and it led to Sokolov’s consensus draft stock slipping considerably. There is always the adjustment factor to a slightly different game for players coming over from Europe to the CHL, but it’s never easy to pin down how much of an impact that really has. Still, Sokolov did decently enough in his first season for a player projected in the middle rounds and he was able to use his size, shot, and board play to make an impact for Cape Breton. Full stats for Sokolov, via Elite Prospects, can be found below.
Where is Yegor Sokolov Ranked?
Sokolov is a player who isn’t necessarily expected to go near the top of the draft, so he wont show up in rankings everywhere, but consensus seems to have him perhaps in the fourth round range, meaning he will probably be on the board for the Devils’ fourth and perhaps fifth round picks. One thing to note on Sokolov’s general ranking is that it has slid over the course of the 2017-18 season, with some initially projecting him as a second- or third-rounder back in the fall. It seems that most were expecting a bit more out of the big Russian after making the jump across the pond. Whether that means he has some yet-to-be-realized abilities after a year in North America that could make him a good late-round value will be for NHL scouting departments to figure out. A sampling of rankings is listed below:
- NHL Central Scouting: NA-107 (Midterm rank: NA-73)
- Future Considerations: 97 (Fall rank: 69)
- The Draft Analyst: 158 (September rank: 89)
- ISS: N/A (Top 31)
- McKeen’s: N/A (Top 31)
- TSN—Button: N/A (March Top 90)
- Dobber Prospects: 82 (January rank: 67)
What Others Say About Yegor Sokolov
Most descriptions of Sokolov’s game immediately point out that he is strong on the puck, which certainly makes sense for a player his size. More recent profiles that capture this season are less common — not out of the ordinary for a later-round pick and understandable given his general slide in stock — but some profiles from last summer and earlier in the winter can be found for him. First, this profile page from ICB Hockey provides a nice summation of his game. From that profile:
He is hard to move off the puck and is able to draw penalties regularly with his strong play down low and along the boards. While his skating is not at an elite level, he isn’t off the pace during a shift and uses his size and strength when with the puck to create chances in the offensive zone. Sokolov has a hard and heavy shot which can trouble goalies. He sees the ice well in the offensive zone and knows where to be on the ice to be in order to use his shot and be an offensive scoring threat.
This description, coming out of the Hlinka Memorial tournament last summer, points to a player who can effectively use his size. That isn’t always the case for big players, but it seems that Sokolov has the ability to shield pucks well and win along the boards, lending credence to the “power forward” label. Having a good shot to go along with it doesn’t hurt either. Speed appears to not be a major strength but maybe not a liability, based on this profile.
In a preview of the CHL Top Prospects Game (where Sokolov ended up with a goal and an assist) from the game’s website back in January, blurbs on each player were compiled from the NHL’s Central Scouting. Here’s what the Central Scouting Service had to say about Sokolov:
NHL Central Scouting says: Good size/strength winger – very good puck skills and ability to always be open for scoring chances – good vision and playmaking abilities; decent finishing touch – strong on the puck and very good puck protection game – effective puck control game down low and along the wall – patient to make good decisions with the puck.
So this gives a little more credit to his abilities as a puck-mover and also praises his strength on the puck. Even if a guy projects as more of a grinder at the next level, displaying skill is crucial as a prospect, and Sokolov seems to have some shooting and passing bona-fides based on reports.
To wit, the Cape Breton coach had this to say when they selected Sokolov in the Import Draft (via the Cape Breton Post):
Dumont said he was pleasantly surprised when Sokolov was still available at pick No. 35.
“He’s an offensive power forward, a big body, very good on puck protection, very strong on the puck,” he said. “He’s a world-class player. One of the best 2000-born coming out of Russia.”
Pretty high praise there, and perhaps somewhat self serving praise when you’re planning on coaching the guy, but it still warrants consideration. Sokolov is clearly not without talent, even despite a so-so year of production.
Finally, for a bit of cold water to throw on the proceedings, we’ll go to Bill Placzek of Draft Site, who is a bit less impressed with the overall package on Sokolov’s profile page:
This is large kid who simple (sic) can wire the puck. No hesitation, pick a spot and the cannon fires.
The problem is that is this pony’s one trick; he really has trouble moving his feet and being a 200 foot player, because he doesn’t move well. I am not sure if he will garnish enough attention for a team to jump up, draft him and try and spend a few seasons working the heavy boot issues out.
So Placzek sees him as a bit more one-dimensional and has concerns about speed for the big forward. He also talks about Sokolov only picking up one goal at the U18 WJC, though I suspect he was mixing that up with the Hlinka Memorial as he was not at the WJC-18. Regardless, given the premium on speed in the NHL and within the Devils organization particularly, having “heavy boot issues” isn’t necessarily going to inflate someone’s stock. A big time shot can at least help, though.
A Little Video
Video on Sokolov is somewhat limited but there are highlights scattered around. First is a video of a few of his goals this season from Hockey Draft Central. He’s definitely a big dude and can apparently finish a breakaway, despite the speed concerns.
And here’s an impressive goal from a couple years back in an international friendly as a U16, where he just bulldozes through a bunch of Finns.
Not too shabby, but also hard to draw many conclusions from what’s out there.
An Opinion of Sorts
Yegor Sokolov is an interesting player to consider with a later round pick. There are some real bright spots around his game, but also some significant concerns. A guy who is already 6’-4” and pushing 230 by his 18th birthday, isn’t the most common thing to come by, and the fact that he is able to largely use that size effectively is good. A big shot also doesn’t hurt to go along with it and he seems to have the tools to potentially become an effective power forward type someday.
There are certainly some things to be concerned about with Sokolov, though. Somewhat underwhelming production is one of them, though that a prospect projecting toward the late rounds is a project isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. The fact that he is so large and unable to produce a little more does make me wonder how he will do once he’s not such an outlier (though he’d already be big at the NHL level, too). The speed is also a concern, though people watching him seem a bit mixed on whether it’s a major issue. For a team like the Devils generally looking for speed though, it’s possible they might not see him as a fit. Overall, I think I’d really start to give him serious consideration maybe in the fifth round or so, and I’d like to see the team steer clear if they jump back into the second or third rounds somehow. He has some solid aspects to his game but he seems like a project for sure and, for me, picks of that nature should be reserved for the later rounds.
So after reading about Yegor Sokolov, what are your thoughts on him as a prospect? Do you think he’s worth spending a late-round pick on? How high would you consider taking him? Should the Devils pick him strictly to try to corner the market on the international supply of Yegors? Sound off with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.