The future remains bright for Yaroslav Askarov.

After concluding his sophomore American Hockey League season with the Milwaukee Admirals, the Nashville Predators’ goaltending prospect was honored with a nod to the AHL’s Top Prospects Team on Thursday.

Determined by the AHL’s hockey operations department and club general managers, the Top Prospects Team includes three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender projected to be the best future NHL players.

In that regard, it’s hard to argue against Askarov’s inclusion.

In 2023-24, Nashville’s 11th overall pick at the 2020 NHL Draft owned a 30-13-1 record after 44 appearances, and concluded his sophomore campaign tied for second among qualified league netminders in wins, fifth in goals-against average (2.39) and second in shutouts (6). In January, he posted an 8-0-0 record, a 1.73 goals-against average, a .941 save percentage and three shutouts before being named the AHL’s Goaltender of the Month.

In late December, the 21-year-old, right-catch goaltender crossed two hefty milestones off his list, first making his Bridgestone Arena debut in a third-period relief effort against the Carolina Hurricanes, then earning his first NHL career win in a thrilling, 3-2 shootout decision over the Washington Capitals.

After returning to Milwaukee, Askarov represented the Admirals at the AHL All-Star Classic and helped carry his team to the Calder Cup Playoffs’ Western Conference Finals - both for the second-straight year.

“I think he grabbed it from last year and then started this year really well,” Admirals General Manager and Predators Director of Player Development Scott Nichol said. “Our defense was really good in front of him, we had a really good team in front of him and I thought the tandem with him and Troy Grosenick worked very well. He lost his buddy in [former Admirals goaltender] Devin Cooley and we got a new goalie coach… So he had to kind of navigate through some new experiences with the goalie coach and another netminder, and I thought he handled that very well. It's not all on his shoulders and I think he realizes that he has to be part of a team, and he relies on his teammates to help them through those games. But I thought he played really well. I thought he was very consistent this year. He knows what he needs to work on, and that's just part of being a young player. So, he's in a good spot.”

Indeed, with Cooley departing Milwaukee in free agency over the summer, Askarov found himself paired with Grosenick, the Wisconsin native and former Admirals netminder.

Though the two couldn’t be further apart in personality, the 34-year-old Grosenick gave Askarov an invaluable veteran presence to lean on and a friendly rival to battle for starter’s time with.

“Being a goalie is hard because there’s only one net, but I think that's the key, is to have healthy competition,” Nichol said. “Whether you’re an older guy or a younger guy, you want somebody who can push you in other areas, maybe where you lack a little bit. Maybe it's your preparation, or your eating habits. It's all the stuff that we don't see that your goalie partner can help with. So, I think having Goose in that part of it was really good.”

Though Grosenick ultimately stepped in for the Admirals after Askarov saw his second career postseason run cut short by an injury suffered in Game 4 of the Central Division Finals, there was plenty for the young netminder to glean from the unexpected adversity.

“I know he was disappointed from last year, kind of losing the net toward the end of the year, and then this year he had a tough couple games in Dallas and then he got hurt and couldn't get back in, but that's all part of his growth,” Nichol said. “He had a great year, but it's been a little bit of a roller coaster with some of his injuries, and he's learning how to deal with them. And that's what the American League is all about. He's going to be a better goalie because of this learning experience of getting hurt and getting back into shape, getting into game shape and all that, so he can go off his past experiences and be better up here in Nashville… If you don't go through it, you don't know how to deal with it. He's going to be a stronger goalie because of that.”

Askarov’s inclusion to the Top Prospects Team is a career first for the Predators prospect. 

Smashville can expect to see him back in the Music City this summer at both the Predators’ rookie and training camps. Camp dates and rosters will be announced at a later date.

About the AHL Top Prospects Team

To qualify for the AHL Top Prospects Team, skaters must have been 22 years old or younger on the first day of the regular season, and must have played at least 36 regular-season games in the AHL and no more than 30 regular-season games in the National Hockey League during 2023-24. Goaltenders must have been 23 or younger on opening night and have played at least 25 AHL games and no more than 20 NHL games during the regular season.

This year’s Top Prospect Team includes: 

Goaltender: Yaroslav Askarov, Milwaukee Admirals
Defenseman: Brandt Clarke, Ontario Reign 
Defenseman: Simon Edvinsson, Grand Rapids Griffins
Forward: Jiri Kulich, Rochester Americans
Forward: Logan Stankoven, Texas Stars
Forward: Shane Wright, Coachella Valley Firebirds

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