Terry Wilson

Afanasyev remains wildcard for Spitfires heading into season

With a budding young core, the Windsor Spitfires should begin to shift their focus towards adding another skilled forward to the mix.

On Dec. 4, 2018, the Windsor Spitfires completed one of their bigger trades in franchise history. Trading away star goaltender and reigning OHL Goaltender of the Year Michael DiPietro to the Ottawa 67’s. 

They would end up receiving a huge return for DiPietro, including four second-round picks. However, arguably the biggest piece of the trade was the rights to Yegor Afanasyev. If the Spitfires were able to convince the forward to join the team next year it would provide another skilled goal scorer to an otherwise lackluster forward group.

It was no secret the Spitfires struggled to score last season. Not a single player on the roster scored over 30 goals, with Cole Purboo leading the team with 29. Will Cuylle would show flashes of brilliance during his rookie season, scoring 26 goals in 63 games. Making him the first 16-year-old Spitfire rookie to score 20 goals since the 2010-11 season. However, like most rookies, Cuylle struggled at points to remain consistent. Fellow rookie Jean-Luc Foudy would finish the season with 49 points, but lacks a shooter’s mentality, scoring only 8 goals in the 2018-19 season.

By inserting Afanasyev to the lineup it would take some of the pressure off the shoulders of Cuylle to be their go-to scorer next season. Afanasyev is currently ranked to go somewhere in the early to middle second round of the 2019 NHL draft. After scoring 27 goals and 62 points in his first season for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. Noted for his quick hands and smooth skating ability, he would easily be able to slide somewhere in Windsor’s top-six and provide the team with another weapon up front.

When the Spitfires acquired Afanasyev, General Manager Warren Rychel had nothing but high praise for the skilled Russian. 

“He is an exceptional talent. He would instantly be our best forward and he has that kill switch where he can shoot,” said Rychel. “They have done a good job with him [Muskegon] but I think we will really get after him in the summer.”

Adding Afanasyev would also give the Spitfires some more size up front. Currently listed at 6’4”, Afanasyev would help balance a top-six featuring Foudy, Daniel D’Amico and Tyler Angle who are all listed to be under 5’11”.

Only time will tell if Windsor is able to convince Afanasyev to make the transition to the OHL. However, if he does decide to play for the Spitfires he will provide the team with a huge x-factor going forward.