We’ve reached the upper-echelon of the 2019 NHL draft class. I firmly believe the top-17 makes up a very strong group of skilled, high upside players that do not present any glaring weaknesses. Egor Afanasyev is one of those players, yet, has not gotten the attention he deserves. He was one of the best players in the USHL this past season for the Muskegon Lumbarjacks, showcasing a high level of skill in a big body.
The Russian winger has all the tools to be a successful power-forward in the NHL, having top-end puck skills and a lethal shot to go along with his freakish frame. I see Afanasyev as a legitimate threat to score 20 plus goals on a regular basis when he makes it to the show. That kind of confidence from me doesn’t come easy, but he proved time and time again that he is a top prospect available for the draft in Vancouver.
|Birthday||January 23, 2001|
Skating: 55 – Puck Skills: 60 – Hockey IQ/Sense: 55 – Physicality: 60
Generally, players 6’4” and bigger who aren’t light on their feet will make for poor skaters. Afanasyev is an interesting case study because he has a very heavy stride, yet, has the power and technique down to get the most out of each step. He isn’t necessarily a burner but he can surprise defenders with how deceptively fast and agile he is. I’ve really like the comparison of Anthony Mantha, for having similar builds and skating styles. However, I don’t feel Afanasyev has the extra gear that Mantha does to be a consistent threat with his feet.
But where my real liking for Afanasyev comes from is the high-end skill he possesses. His size gives him a major advantage in terms of puck protection to dominate any given shift. He is among the most offensively creative players in the draft, loving to make the flashy play when given the opportunity. As a stick-handler he is both unpredictable and intelligent. He isn’t just pulling off skill plays for the hell of it, having purpose in his actions.
Some concerns about his playmaking are reasonable, but with his ability to dominate the cycle to go along with the other good parts about his game, I don’t think his average vision should hold him back from being a top-20 selection. Especially considering he has shown the ability to create something out of nothing, which may bode well for how he develops as an assist man down the road.
But Afanasyev’s bread and butter is taking it upon himself to make a play. He doesn’t make others better, but most wingers can’t either. Some of the wingers I have ranked ahead of him — such as Kaapo Kakko, Matthew Boldy, Vasili Podkolzin, and Bobby Brink — have more potential in that regard, and that certainly played a role in why Afanasyev found himself at the bottom of my top-17, which is a group I like a lot.
Nevertheless, I love how demanding of the puck he is. When things get rolling Afanasyev wants to be a primary contributor and plays with almost a killer instinct. I won’t deny he has had his fair share of taking shifts off, but when he is on, he is ON. His overall consistency is not as concerning as other top prospects in the 2019 draft like Kirby Dach and Graeme Clarke, and should still make for a consistent goal scorer at the next level.
Oh, and speaking of goal scoring, he is pretty damn good at it.
I ranked Afanasyev’s shot as the fourth best in the entire 2019 draft. He can score in a plethora of ways, be it from range, off the rush, or net-front. He has precise accuracy and can score a goal from out of no where. Some of his goals almost seem like by accident, but trust me, they aren’t. He has the instincts of a premium goal-scorer. The Russian forward has the potential to score 20 plus goals in the NHL for a long time.
This is some shot here from Egor Afanasyev pic.twitter.com/2hdYAmJqYA
— Cameron (@AthanasiouLater) January 5, 2019
All of that together has the aptitude of being a home run pick. Power forwards with Afanasyev’s puck skills and shot don’t typically last long in the draft. I love the upside in him, believing he’ll be a mainstay top-6 forward. He doesn’t have noteworthy playmaking, but he makes up for plenty with the rest of his game. In time, he should prove to be a steal if he falls to where many believe he will in the draft.
Afanasyev was originally set to play for Michigan State University in the Fall, however, a change of heart took place. He is now committed to play for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, after the club acquired his rights from the Ottawa 67s via trade.
STORY: Full details on the addition of newest Spitfire @AfanasyevE11, with quotes from GM Warren Rychel.
— Windsor Spitfires (@SpitsHockey) June 14, 2019
I like this move a lot. I feel the CHL fits him much better then the college route. He is already so physically developed and would benefit more from playing a pro-like schedule. The Spitfires are also a team on the rise, with emerging stars in Jean-Luc Foudy and Will Cuylle.
I’d anticipate Afanasyev spends the next two seasons in the OHL. I wouldn’t say the NHL for the 2020-21 season is out of the question, but I like to remain patient with prospects. If they’re not ready, there is no rush. Proper and successful development can go a long way in a prospect reaching their full potential. If Afanasyev reaches his full potential you’re getting one hell of a player.