It’s rare to see goaltenders drafted in the first round. But then again, Yaroslav Askarov is a rare find worthy of the high-rated hype. Now eyeing his entry into a league that has several formidable Russian goaltenders, Askarov has the makings of being one of the best.
Here’s what you need to know about the top netminding prospect of 2020.
Age: 18 (June 16, 2002)
Current team: SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Hometown: Omsk, Russia
Weight: 176 pounds
He’s a rare find
Because goalies generally take longer to develop, and the position is still a bit of a mystery to most front office leaders, the general consensus is that drafting goalies early is a bit of a gamble.
Not since 2005 have we seen a goaltender selected in the top 10 – that was Carey Price, going to Montreal at pick No. 5. Askarov could be the first top-10 goalie in 15 years.
It’s no surprise why — at six-foot-three and still filling out, he looks the part of a big-bodied netminder we’ve seen thrive in the NHL. And with his ever-growing resume which includes clutch performances on the international stage, he has all the makings to lead the next great group of elite Russian goalies.
He stands out on the international circuit
He’s just 18, but Askarov’s trophy cabinet is already starting to fill up from all his international success. He backstopped Russia to gold at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and put up tournament highs in goals-against average (1.40) and save percentage (.948).
Askarov had scouts and hockey media excited about his performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August 2018 as a 16-year-old, was the best goalie of the 2018-19 U18 world juniors while claiming silver, and was lights out at last August’s Hlinka Gretzky as he posted a 1.25 goals-against average and .960 save percentage.
The only international tournament he struggled in was the 2020 world juniors, where he posted pedestrian numbers — a 2.71 goals-against average and .877 save percentage.
A strong bounce-back showing with Russia during the Under-18 worlds this spring could’ve cemented his status as a top-10 pick, but the tournament’s cancellation due to the pandemic prevented him from that.
He’s already had a taste of the pros
Askarov spent most of 2019-20 in the VHL, Russia’s second-tier pro league ranked below the KHL. There, he posted a 2.45 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 18 appearances while recording 12 wins.
He also won his KHL debut — a 4-2 SKA St. Petersburg victory over Sochi.
The 2020-21 KHL season has already begun and Askarov has only helped his draft stock. In three games with SKA, Askarov has posted a 0.74 goals-against average and a .974 save percentage.