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Getting to Know: Yaroslav Askarov

Young Russian expected to be first goalie taken in draft

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

Although the NHL has not set a date nor the format for this year's draft lottery, the Detroit Red Wings could not drop any lower than fourth according to the normal rules.

That would likely rule them out for the top goaltending prospect in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, Yaroslav Askarov of Russia.

Although Askarov did not have his best showing in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, recording a 2.71 goals-against average and .877 save percentage in five games, he is still expected to be the first netminder taken in the draft, most likely in the top 10.

When NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings on April 8, Askarov was the top-ranked international goaltender.

"Askarov is one of the most athletic goaltenders available in this draft," NHL Central Scouting's Dan Marr said. "He's got a proven track record. He's one of these players that has always been the youngest player on his team. He's got a shelf full of medals already. He brings the size, the compete level and he has all the goaltending tools that he needs to be a No. 1 goalie in the National Hockey League."

Askarov is 6-foot-3 and just 176 pounds but he doesn't turn 18 until June 16 so he is expected to add weight to his frame as he matures.

The young goaltender played in 18 games for SKA-Neva St. Petersburg of the Vysshaya Hokkeinaya Liga (VHL), the second highest men's league in Russia.

Tweet from @TPEHockey: I���ve noticed Yaroslav Askarov has slipped a bit in recent draft rankings. Let me just remind you who you���re looking at here. #2020NHLDraft 

Askarov had a 2.45 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in the VHL.

He also played one game for SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), recording a 2.00 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

One of Askarov's most impressive performances came in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup tournament last August as he led Russia to the gold medal over Canada.

It was Russia's first gold medal in the tournament since 1995, seven years before Askarov was born.

Askarov set new records for goaltenders in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, with a 1.25 goals-against average and .960 save percentage.

Göran Stubb, the NHL's director of European scouting, cautioned that people should not consider only Askarov's performances in tournaments.

"I think he's a little bit overrated because as I understand, he has been playing really, really well in a couple of tournaments in North America," Stubb said. "We saw him at world junior and I could say he was a little bit up and down even then. I also saw him playing in a tournament, under-20 tournament in Helsinki in November. He was good, he wasn't great but you can see that there is something special with him. It's a little bit too much to say that he's the best goalie prospect coming up in the last 10-15 years. He's good but perhaps not that good."

Stubb said that personality-wise, Askarov is a commanding figure.

"He's in a good organization in St. Petersburg right now so I think he'll be a great goaltender," Stubb said. "He's a very loud prospect, too. He's giving orders to his skaters all the time, even on power play."

Craig Button, TSN's director of scouting, had Askarov seventh overall and the highest-ranked goaltender in his final rankings.

"He's the best goaltender I've seen entering the draft since (Montreal's) Carey Price," Button said. "When you watch him and look at what his record has been, a successful record. He's only 18 years of age, it's phenomenal what he's done. I think that he's got every capability to be a star goaltender in the National Hockey League. Carey Price went fifth overall (2005 draft), we saw Roberto Luongo go fourth (1997) but Marc-André Fleury went first overall (2003). He's had a pretty darn good career. I think you have to look at it and say, okay, what's available, what's going to be there.

"If Askarov is your guy, four isn't too high if that's who you want. But I think it always comes down to differentiating, okay, do we want the No. 1 defenseman, do we want the No. 1 center, do we want the No. 1 goalie, do we want the No. 1 winger? I would say, listen, this is why I talk about the depth of this draft. It's high end through the first nine, 10, 11, 12 picks. I really believe that."

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