Ranking The Top 31 Prospects in the 2020 NHL Draft: 11. Yaroslav Askarov

OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 18: Members of the Ottawa Senators skate during the warmup wearing the number that Chris Phillips wore during his NHL career as part of his jersey retirement ceremony prior to a game against the Buffalo Sabres at Canadian Tire Centre on February 18, 2020 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 18: Members of the Ottawa Senators skate during the warmup wearing the number that Chris Phillips wore during his NHL career as part of his jersey retirement ceremony prior to a game against the Buffalo Sabres at Canadian Tire Centre on February 18, 2020 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) /
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The top-rated goalie in the upcoming draft, Askarov has franchise potential

Yaroslav Askarov (G), SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)

The uber-talented Russian unsurprisingly takes the top spot out of the goalies in our rankings, many view Askarov as the top goalie prospect to come out since Carey Price.

Craig Button has admired Askarov‘s game during the whole process and has commonly revered him with Price. Usually, goaltenders aren’t abundant in the first-round and are a rarity in the top-10, but in the upcoming draft nobody should be shocked if Askarov finds his way into that elite company, he’s that good.

Dominating the MHL (Russia’s top junior league) in 2018-19, putting up a 0.921 SV% and thriving at the U17 and U18 level for Russia on the international stage all as a 16-year-old, hopes were very high for Askarov heading into his draft year.

2019-2020 Recap

To start off the crucial campaign, Askarov dominated the Hlinka-Gretzky cup and was the sole reason that Russia was able to defeat Canada for the gold medal.

Stopping 35 of 37 shots, he was sensational in the clutch.

Askarov would start the season in the VHL (one level below the KHL) and would play the majority of his season there. Appearing in 18 games with a 2.45 GAA and a 0.920 SV%, he was the best goalie on the team.

His highlight reel was filled with outstanding saves from only games before the World Juniors, he continued to play in the VHL following the tournament.

Heading into the World Juniors at just 17, Askarov was named the starter for the Russians, a feat that is quite rare especially under coach Valeri Bragin, who values older players. Despite all the positivity before the tournament started, the Russian goaltender would falter.

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Registering a 2.77 GAA and a 0.877 SV% and being pulled twice in the tournament before Bragin and the Russians held the reigns over to Amir Miftakhov and would eventually lose in the gold medal game. It was a poor tournament for Askarov and is the only blip on his resume, but shouldn’t be carried too heavily as it was just the World Juniors and he was one of the younger players in the tournament.

While people have been thrown off by Askarov’s World Juniors, letting him slide down your draft board because of one tournament would be very short-sighted.

Strengths

Athleticism

Standing at 6’3″ and 176 pounds, Askarov is very agile in the net allowing him to boast great lateral mobility in his game.

Using a very stretched out butterfly-style due to great flexibility, he is able to take up a significant portion along the ice, making it difficult for shooters to extend the puck around him. Below Askarov makes a great push to stick his pad out and make the great save on the high-quality scoring chance.

His flexibility and athleticism give shooters nightmares as there is no apparent way to beat the talented netminder.

In just his first career professional hockey game, Askarov made a great save that hit the highlight reels. He takes away all of the lower half of the net and the shooter has nowhere to go with the puck.

Awareness

This is the aspect of Askarov’s game that separates him from other goalie prospects over the years, he is exceptional at reading the play and getting to the right spots. He has a great ability to read the play and is barely caught out of position, teams have a tough time getting easy goals because of him usually somehow altering their shot.

TSN’s Craig Button views his awareness as one of the three aspects of Askarov’s game that will make him a franchise goalie in the NHL:

"“He can get to the right spot and, so capable of denying an opponents challenges because of his anticipation”"

Askarov has all the tools to be special.

Weaknesses

Askarov doesn’t possess any glaring weaknesses and doesn’t need to refine much in terms of the way he plays the game. The only weakness that has presented itself before is experience, which was to his detriment on the big stage at the World Juniors. That can’t be held against him though because he is just 17 and wouldn’t be a fair weakness. The talented Russian is so well-rounded.

Ottawa’s Future Number One?

If Ottawa was to get their hands on Askarov, he immediately steps in as Ottawa’s goalie of the future with no if and’s or buts. Ottawa boasts plenty of goaltending depth at the prospect level but has no blue-chip prospect who looks like a future franchise option.

With the New York Islanders pick sliding to the end of the first-round it has become less likely as the days go on that Ottawa has a chance at the star goaltender. With the Russian slated to go in the 10-15 range, it would be tough for the Senators to wiggle their way up to take him. With a trade up to the top-10 unrealistic at this point, Ottawa’s only likely chance is to take Askarov at 5th overall, which doesn’t seem to be in the cards. While the Senators could use Askarov, the way the draft order is shaping up, it has become very unlikely he becomes an Ottawa Senator.

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