Passed over twice in previous NHL Entry Drafts, the “Russian Bear” was selected 61st overall by the Ottawa Senators in October 2020 after leading the Quebec Major Junior League with 46 goals as an overager for the Cape Breton Eagles. The 20-year old also added 46 assists for a 92-point total in only 52 games.
Known for possessing a lethal shot, but a subpar skater, the Senators were intrigued by Egor Sokolov’s six-foot-four, 223-pound frame, signing the forward to a three-year, entry-level contract in November.
At the time, General Manager Pierre Dorion said in a team release, “To Egor’s credit, he’s worked especially hard for this. Despite initially being undrafted, he applied himself to improve many facets of his game to the point where he led the Quebec league in goals last season. We were pleased to be able to select him where we did last month and look forward to seeing his career progress.”
Off the ice, Sokolov became an endearing member to the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia community. Remaining in Canada due to the pandemic, Sokolov delivered groceries to people with autoimmune issues on behalf of his billet family’s grocery store last summer.
On the ice, the Yekaterinburg, Russia native completed his first professional campaign with Belleville in fine fashion. Sokolov led all American League rookies and his team, notching 15 goals – which slotted him tied for fifth league-wide among all players.
The burly right wing’s 25 points were also tops on the “BSens.”
🚨Egor Sokolov scores 15th of the season in game #34
— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) May 20, 2021
While his goal total was impressive, especially for a struggling club starving for offence during the opening 10 games of the season, Sokolov admitted being a scorer wasn’t necessarily the focus for him this season.
“It’s not something I’m focusing on. It’s my first pro year. I’m just trying to focus on my game – keep growing as a hockey player. I’m thankful that coaches put me in a position to succeed. Obviously, I like scoring goals. My linemates have been great to me (most recently, Joseph LaBate, Matthew Peca), and they’ve been dishing the puck. The only thing I have to do is put it in the net, so I’m happy about that. Not that I’m focusing on, I just want to keep growing – get better and better,” Sokolov noted Wednesday postgame.
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While the soft-spoken player has aspirations of skating for the parent Senators in future. Sokolov is looking forward to playing for Belleville next season.
“I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be on the team – being around the guys – learning from them – meetings with the coaches, one-on-one. I think it’s just an awesome feeling. For most of our guys, we’re first year guys, we’re learning. I think it’s important because next year we can play 76 games and we’re going to have 35 games under our belt. We’re going to be more confident. It’ll be interesting, I think.”
For his part, the past year and a half has been a grind for the youngster. Sokolov will finally head home to Russia, albeit for at least a month or so, before returning to train in Nova Scotia with a group that includes current Senator and former Eagles teammate, Drake Batherson.
Sokolov told Full Press Hockey, ”It’s important for me. I’m not even 21 yet, and I haven’t seen my family in over a year and a half. Last time I was able to see them was the previous year. Not being able to be home for two years is a big deal. You obviously miss your parents and stuff like that, so I’m looking forward to see them – spend time with them. I’m going to take a little bit if time off, then get back to work – prepare myself for the next camp. Come in with the right mindset, see what I can do from there.”
First year pro in the books 📚 thanks to everyone for their support ❤️excited to get back at it🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/vXGRtOHXtu
— Egor Sokolov (@sokol2926) May 21, 2021
The trajectory for Sokolov is high. Belleville head coach Troy Mann recognizes this. However, Mann re-iterates Sokolov still has plenty to work on prior to become a NHL regular.
“When you think of something that needs improving, his conditioning is something he needs to prioritize. If you ask him why he went through the Draft the first time, he’d probably say “his conditioning and skating” are probably his two biggest obstacles. He spent a lot of time working on that,” ,Mann explained to FPH.
Sokolov weighed as much as 240 pounds at one point in junior, and fluctuated between 215-220 this past season for Belleville.
Mann continued, “He’s going to play in the NHL. It’s just a matter of time. Our message to him is; he needs to continue to work on his conditioning and his skating, specifically, coming out of turns. His straightaway speed, I think is not an issue. The other night he was able to track down and prevent a breakaway. He’s trying. Because he’s such a big body, he needs to work on his edges coming out of those turns. It’s certainly something he’ going to improve on. He can build on his defensive game. It’s come a long way since the beginning of the season. I’ve had him on the ice for five-on-six with the lead. His defensive game has come a long way. However, it still continues to get better. The NHL level is faster and quicker to play defensive. I think those are probably the three things that he would need to focus on. I guess it’s tough to focus on defensive awareness and those type of things in the summer, but we’ll continue to pound on that in September.”
For Egor Sokolov, he’ll head home and get some deserving rest. September will be here soon enough.