30Egor Afanasyev
Photo Credit: courtesy USHL

Flames 2019 First Round Targets: Egor Afanasyev

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.

Scouting report

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.

The numbers

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.

  • cjc

    Seems a bit of a reach at 26th (average of all rankings has him 41st). He won’t be able to leverage his skill as a pro unless he has at least average wheels – otherwise he’ll need a lot of o-zone starts. Plus, really big guys like him rarely develop that speed (he’s 6’4″, 201 already). If he were a right shot that might boost his value a bit, but they can probably find better left shot wingers at 26th overall.

    If you look at his comparables, he’s on a bit of a cusp:

    Guys ahead of him in their USHL performance at age 17 make the NHL full-time at a pretty good clip, while players behind him are a lot less likely to crack the NHL. There are a few exceptions, but many of those have May-September birthdays. Afanasyev is a January birthday, so he actually played half his 17 year-old season as an 18 year-old.

    • FLT

      Thanks for sharing that link, I agree there will likely be better prospects than Afanasyev available at 26.

      Lots of really strong numbers from the US NTDP crop this year in Boldy, Caufield, Zegras and of course Hughes, but I wonder if some of those are a bit inflated due to the strength of the collective group as opposed to their individual skill. On a related note I see Bobby Brink is ahead of all of them except for Hughes (PPG basis).

  • Puck Head

    If we had a couple second round picks he might be worth a gamble. If we can’t find someone better than this I would be tempted to trade our first round pick for an NHL player in return.

  • Mitchell

    He is a Lefty who plays LW primarily and can also move to C in the USHL. I just cant see calgary taking him based on how the last article said that calgary occasionally takes the best player available over positional need. I wouldn’t say he’d be anywhere close to being the best player available at 26, but hes an interesting option in the early to mid second round. If calgary makes the pick it’s going to be the best player available or a positional need which could be a RW, C, or even a RHD.

  • T&A4Flames

    Anybody seeing us possibly taking Leason at 26? He’s a huge 6’5″ C with a right shot but he’s an overager. which may mean his development is a bit more complete and my be ready sooner for the bigs which could benefit us being that we’re in our window to win (or if you listen to Skylardog, our window is closed lol).

  • Jobu

    Who else here thinks Kappo is going to go first overall?
    – He’s proven to be way more effective in every single tournament he’s been in. – He’s already lighting it up in a men’s league.
    – He’s bigger and taller than Hughes
    – All this guy does is win.

    The only knock against him is he’s not a center.

  • oilcanboyd

    Flames have a late first and No second. So, if the Flames value him they have to act with their first pick. But this is one of many players that might make sense…

  • Garry T

    Forget this guy. Sam Poulin is the puppy we want. Great wheels, size, intensity and can carry two teams on his back
    at the same time. Raphael Lavoie is duplicity in terms of Poulin. If we could somehow get them both you get a left and a right winger, with the same attributes. They combined with one or two of the big centers we picked in the later rounds
    could make for a formidable line in two to three years.
    I never thought I would suggest moving Gudreau but his game has changed. I would trade him for picks and Jersey
    would be the team to go to for that first over all. Failing that, the Montreal Canadians for their 10th. to get Lavoie
    and a trade with the Rangers for their 20th. to get Poulin. These guys are worth reaching for to instantly build a core with. In trading Gudreau we would pick up a player, the first overall and potentially two to three more picks in the 2nd round over the next couple of years. Montreal might give up that pick for Brodie or Bennett and Dube. Tre needs to get on those deals now to ensure he has them. This waiting to put a show on at the draft is crap.

    • freethe flames

      Poulin is ranked anywhere from 18th to 30th. I think the Habs pick is 16th not 10th. We might be able to get a 1st and 2nd out of Montreal for Brodie but it might be next years 1st and one of this years 2nd’s.

    • Domeward bound

      Hate to say it but I doubt Gaudreau would fetch the 1st overall pick alone. When you’re in that position you expect a cornerstone franchise player and they likely believe Kakko or Hughes is that guy, throw in team control for 7 years and the savings of 3 years of elc vs 3 years under contract and the potential he walks as a ufa and tbh the Flames are the team needing to sweeten the pot, not the Devils.

  • freethe flames

    Would the Flames move their first rounder to fill a need? I think it is a possibility. Here is a possible target: a trade with Columbus for Josh Anderson; in so many ways he screams what the Flames need a big RHS who has shown the potential to be a top 6 RW on this team be it with Johnny/Monny or Tkachuk/Lindy. It would cost a lot.He is 25 and had 47 points last year and has 1 year left on a $1.85m contract. At first glance is why would Columbus move him; so here is my reasoning. I’m assuming they lose Bob, Panarin, Duchene and Dzingle to FA; ouch and they only have 3rd rounder and a 7th rounder as picks. They are stuck; their remaining core is an interesting bunch of guys some a bit older and some younger. Will they need to rethink their lineup and add some younger pieces and picks; maybe. My offer would be our first and Janko; they get younger and back in the draft and we get a legit RW that helps us right away. Do I actually think it will happen; very unlikely but it could be a starting point.