Eagles' Russian forward achieves first step of achieving NHL dream
SYDNEY, N.S. -- Cape Breton Eagles forward Egor Sokolov left his family and friends in Russia three years ago to chase his NHL dream from Sydney.
Every team in the league passed on Sokolov the first two years he was eligible, but on Wednesday, there was pure joy and jubilation as Sokolov and his billet family heard his name announced by the Ottawa Senators on Day 2 of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
It's a day the 20 year-old has been dreamed of for a while.
"It was pretty emotional," Sokolov said. "I was waiting for that for the past three years."
Sokolov's junior hockey career ended abruptly in March because of the pandemic.
He had hoped to go to Montreal for the NHL draft in person, but that too was cancelled, and held virtually instead.
"Of course, any team would've been fine, but all I was hoping for was the closest, so I could just get on a plane and get there whenever I want," Ashley Ryan, Sokolov's billet mom.
Sokolov will join his former billet brother and teammate Drake Batherson in Ottawa.
The Russian, who hasn't been back in his homeland for more than a year, says Sydney is a special place for him.
When he first arrived he couldn't speak a word of English and didn't know anyone.
"Sydney is my second home," Sokolov says. "It's the safest place in Canada probably right now. I enjoyed that time."
Sokolov was eligible for the past two NHL drafts but was passed over. Now his name was not only called but in the second round 61st overall.
He says his dedication has paid off, and it should be a lesson for younger players to never give up.
"Keep working hard in the gym, on the ice, and try to keep getting better," Sokolov said. "I think if you do that, everything will come your way."
Sokolov seems to be an example of a classic late bloomer, but his story won't be complete unless he actually cracks the Senators' lineup.
"I was looking forward to that day and now it happened," he said. "It's a dream come true. It's just the first goal I have to reach. I have to keep going and keep working hard."
It's a moment he will never forget, and one he hopes will lead to a long NHL career.
Two other Maritimers were drafted on Day 2 of the draft. Lukas Cormier of Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, N.B., is a speedy defenceman for the Charlottetown Islanders who was selected in the third round by the Vegas Golden Knights.
Sokolov's Eagles teammate, winger Ryan Francis of Beaver Bank, N.S., was chosen in the 5th round by the Calgary Flames.