Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Spotlight: Egor Afanasyev

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 11: Egor Afanasyev #70 of the Nashville Predators during warmup before his first career NHL game at Arena on March 11, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 11: Egor Afanasyev #70 of the Nashville Predators during warmup before his first career NHL game at Arena on March 11, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Egor Afanasyev put himself on every Nashville Predators fans’ radar this past season, although it was unclear what his designated role would be when he got called up to play against the Kings on March 11.

At this time, Nashville was moving around different forwards at a rapid rate after the trade deadline and unfortunate injuries, and the 22-year-old left winger was one of many called up from the Milwaukee Admirals in the Spring.

Afanasyev’s first stint of NHL action was very unique, as Nashville was going through lots of roster changes, but he definitely took advantage of his time and further made his case for a permanent roster spot in the near future, maybe even as soon as coming out of 2023 Nashville Predators training camp.

2022-23 Season Review for Afanasyev

Even after surprising the coaching staff during the 2022 training camp, Afanasyev started the season with the Admirals, although he played a significant role with the team right from the get go.

While in Milwaukee, Afanasyev notched 26 total points in 57 games, including seven power-play goals. He was a very strong player on their power play, as his physicality made it possible to confuse the few defenders on the opposing team.

Afanasyev was also one of only two Admirals to score on both the power-play and short handed, and finished third on the team in shots on goal when he got called up to Nashville.

After getting called up, Afanasyev ended up playing a total of 17 games for the Predators and was able to score his first career NHL goal. At the time, Nashville was using a lot of young forwards to try to gain more point production, but a lot of these forwards lacked the physicality needed to play in the NHL as they were rushed onto the team due to these injuries.

Afanasyev came up and was immediately able to help the team with that much needed physicality, and from the moment he stepped on to the ice, he was making a difference in puck control and movement.

Even though he was only able to score one goal and record just one point in a Predators jersey, he was a vital asset to the team and made a difference every time his name was called. He stepped up and took the role that he was intended to take and played a large part in keeping Nashville’s hopes up so late in the season.

Afanasyev’s first NHL goal couldn’t have come at a better time though, as it was recorded during the Predators’ game against Calgary, where the loser would be eliminated from playoff contention.

Afanasyev’s goal led the Predators to a tie, where they later won in the shootout.

After the Preds’ season ended, Afanasyev was sent back down to Milwaukee to play in the Calder Cup Playoffs, where he finally found some point-production consistency. He scored eleven points in 16 games for the Admirals and led the team with his physicality all the way to the Western Conference Finals.

It was clear that playing in Nashville and scoring his first NHL goal greatly grew his confidence in himself and his scoring abilities, and we saw a completely different player during these playoffs.

Season Outlook for 2023-24

Afanasyev is one of the players that has a split chance of making the roster for the Predators at the start of the season.

Nashville is very forward heavy with talent now that we have seen the immense skills that Tommy Novak, Luke Evangelista, Philip Tomasino, and Juuso Parssinen bring to the team, so it is unclear whether or not Afanasyev will be able to earn his spot on the team at the start of 2023-24.

The training camp performance from Afanasyev will be vital to him earning a permanent spot on the team, as he does lack these point production stats that a lot of the other young forwards have under their belts and hasn’t amassed the NHL experience yet.

During the rookie showcase that took place this past week, Afanasyev was named captain. This makes it clear that the coaching staff is aware of the important presence that he has whenever he is on the ice, and it also shows that he has leadership qualities that are important for any player to have.

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Regardless of whether or not Afanasyev makes the roster straight out of training camp, I am sure that we will see him play in a Predators jersey at least a few times this season, as general manager Barry Trotz has stated recently that he wants players in Milwaukee to be able to grow and play at the NHL level.

As we saw from last season, a lot can change very quickly in regards to the NHL roster, and Afanasyev is sure to be one of the first to be called up when a forward is needed.

While on the Predators, we saw Afanasyev work well with Philip Tomasino. The pair played together in Milwaukee, Tomasino getting called up just a few months prior to Afanasyev.

Afanasyev’s physicality made it easy for him to get the puck to a quick-moving Tomasino, making the pair a huge weapon in the offensive zone and in and out of transitions across the blue line. We also saw him work well with center Cody Glass, as both of them have quite the size advantage on other players, making their line almost unstoppable on the forecheck.

Mark Jankowsi was also a player that Afanasyev worked well with as he was always ready for Afanasyev to get the puck to him after a quick transition.

Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses

Coming in at 6-foot-4-inches, Afanasyev brings much needed physicality to the Predators. He is a very big and powerful winger who is very hard for defensemen to handle in the offensive zone. When he has control of the puck, he is able to use his size to deter defenders away in order for him to make difficult cross-ice passes.

Afanasyev also has great vision across the ice and is able to anticipate his teammates’ passes and plays, making his passes extremely accurate and making the playmaking run smoother between transitions.

Something that Afanasyev will certainly be working on this training camp is his shot and scoring chances. He has a strong shot, but while on the Preds he struggled to get past the NHL level goalies. He put up 21 shots on goal for a 4.8 shooting percentage in his first 17 NHL games.

Afanasyev will need to focus on finding ways to score and increase his shots on goal in order to make a strong case of having a roster spot right away and beat out other candidates for Nashville’s bottom-six.

Overall, we can definitely expect Afanasyev to put up a strong case for making a roster spot, although I am unsure whether or not he will actually get one to start the season. At the very least, he should get called up at some point during 2023-24 and get a chance to stick around on a more consistent basis.