The Calgary Flames will select 26th overall at the 2019 NHL Draft. Based on the talent pool in this draft, there are a lot of players they could potentially select at that spot. We begin our journey into this year’s draft class with a look at Muskegon Lumberjacks forward Egor Afanasyev.
A product of Tver, Russia – a town just outside of Moscow – Afanasyev is a bit of a departure from traditional Russian hockey prospects in that he’s been in North America for awhile. Like Flames 2018 seventh round pick Dmitry Zavgorodniy, Afanasyev came over as a teenager to make his mark.
Because of this Afanasyev has gotten a lot of looks from North American scouts because he’s played two full seasons in one of the more prominent developmental leagues, the United States Hockey League.
A couple months back, the Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy had this assessment:
In the East, Muskegon is closing in on the first-round playoff bye and Afanasyev is driving the bus offensively. The 2019 draft prospect leads the Jacks in scoring with 56 points in 53 games, using his hands, 1-on-1 skills and compete level to get the job done. Skating is a question mark, but the kid produces.
Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino had a shorter rundown of what he likes about Afanasyev in his April draft rankings:
Good size with a pro-style game and a big-time shot that makes him a legit threat from the dots down.
Ben Kerr from Last Word on Sports provided a fairly handy summary:
Egor Afanasyev’s size and skill make him an intriguing prospect heading into the 2019 NHL Draft. Sometimes bigger forwards take some time to develop before being NHL ready and given the deficiencies in Afanasyev’s defensive game he is a bit of a project. If he develops properly he could be a second liner at even strength, with the ability to play an important role in front of the net on the power play. He can also continue to work on his footspeed and improve his explosiveness going forward.
The general scouting consensus was positive about the Russian’s size, skill, shooting prowess and overall competitiveness. He’ll need to work on his skating – in terms of both his speed and acceleration – and his defensive attention to detail.
Afanasyev finished 10th in overall USHL scoring with 62 points in 58 games, leading the way offensively for the Lumberjacks. Only two first-time draft eligible players out-scored him: Dubuque’s Matias Maccelli (72) and Sioux City’s Bobby Brink (68). Focusing on primary points drops Afanasyev back a bit to fifth – he had a lot of secondary assists.
At five-on-five, he was fourth in the USHL in points (behind Maccelli, Brink and Youngstown’s Jack Malone), but he was second in the USHL in primary points behind only Brink. He was tied for the lead among his age group in five-on-five goals.
As an underage player in a strong league, Afanasyev was an offensive driver on a pretty good team and one of the top producing players of his age group. That’s a good sign.
Availability and fit
As with many players in this year’s draft, there’s a lack of consensus regarding when Afanasyev is taken. ISS has him 26th, Dobber Prospects has him 41st, the Draft Analyst/Sporting News has him 48th, my rankings at The Hockey Writers have him 52nd, Sportsnet has him 22nd, The Athletic has him 30th and 37th, and The Hockey News has him 34th. Unless the most generous projection is correct, he’ll be available when the Flames head to the podium.
In terms of fit, the Flames have been hesitant to draft Russians in recent years – Rushan Rafikov never even came to a development camp, while Pavel Karnaukhov headed back to Russia after a couple years in the WHL. But last year’s selection of Zavgorodniy was a departure, likely fueled by his immense skill and a desire to play in the NHL displayed by him moving from Russia as a teenager. Afanasyev seemingly has that same desire (and similar skill), which could make the Flames less nervous about the Russia of it all.
Organizationally, the Flames are a team where their skilled players aren’t that big and their big players aren’t that skilled. Afanasyev is both big and skilled, which is a unique enough combination that the Flames may be tempted to take him at 26th overall. His skating is a bit of a concern for me (which is likely why I have the lowest ranking of him among the ranks surveyed), but if they feel like they can improve that part of his game it’s easy to see the Flames nabbing him in the first round.