The Colorado Avalanche would do well to select Yaroslav Askarov if the goalie fell all the way to the late 20s, which is where the team will select.
The Colorado Avalanche look pretty set at the goalie position for now. However, they’re not even choosing until the late 20s of the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft. If the top-rated goalie of this year’s draft fell to that position, you’ve got to wonder if they wouldn’t be tempted to select him.
That young man would be Yaroslav Askarov out of Russia. Central Scouting has him as the top-rated goalie for European goalies. He’s scouted to go between #5 to #11 in this year’s draft.
Goalies don’t often get drafted that high, though. He could well fall. As Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey points out, goalies take the longest of any position to develop, so teams often hesitate to spend an early draft pick on them.
That said, if anyone is going to inspire teams to take a flyer on a goalie in the first round, it’s Askarov. So, let’s have a look at this young wonder-minder.
Yaroslav Askarov Stats
Yaroslav Askarov is just 17 years old — he won’t even turn 18 until mid-June. He’s been playing in the Russian version of major juniors, the MHL. He’s also played in the VHL, which is second only to the KHL in Russian hockey — that’s where he’s expected to play next season. He also played one KHL game.
It’s easy to see why Askarov is creating such a stir. In his year in the MHL, he played 31 games. His goals against average was 2.37, but his save percentage was .921. He got 18 games in the VHL this season, recording a 2.45 GAA and .920 save percentage. His single KHL game saw him earn a 2.00 GAA and .920 save percentage.
He’s been equally impressive on the international stage. For WHC U-17, he played 5 games with a 1.40 GAA and .948 save percentage. In six WJC-18 games, he went 2.31 GAA and .916 save percentage. He stumbled a bit at this year’s WJC-20, going 2.71 GAA and .877 save percentage in five games. But, remember, he’s only 17.
Yaroslav Askarov Highlights
Askarov is a right-catching goalie with really good size for one so young — 6-foot-3, 176 pounds. He’s also known for having a cool head when he plays. Here’s how Bill Placzek of DraftSite describes him:
"“Is said to be the best Russian netminder since Andrei Vasilevski. Very cool an calm, and it sometimes seems as if he takes control on games and wins them with is high end abilities. Actually baits shooter with his positioning; gives them an opening he wants them to target and then takes it away as they fire.”"
I like that idea of his baiting shooters and then taking away the opening.
Bill Kerr sees a lot to recommend in Askarov. The scout mentions how good his rebound control is as well as his efficiency of movement. Kerr also remarks on the goalie’s “calm and cool” mental makeup, noting he can shake off bad goals. Kerr also notes:
"“Askarov is also an athletic freak, with the ability to make a jaw-dropping save on those rare times when he does get caught out of position. He is also good at handling the puck and making a pass to set up the breakout.”"
Here he is in action:
Boy, he’s big in net. That’s exciting to see.
Colorado Avalanche and Yaroslav Askarov
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I don’t see Yaroslav Askarov going in the top 10 of the 2020 NHL Draft. It’s not to say he isn’t talented or skilled enough. It’s just that the teams who are going to be choosing in the top 10 are going to need help sooner rather than later, and they’re not going to get that from a 17-year-old goalie. Most scouts put him at least three years out of being even a backup in the NHL.
Which is perfect timing for the Colorado Avalanche. Our goalie situation is good for right now, but it could get tight again in the next three years. It would be great to see a goalie of Askarov’s caliber in our prospect pool. Imagine a tandem of Justus Annunen and Askarov in a few years.
I don’t know if Askarov will drop low enough for Colorado to select him. And I don’t know if they would if the young goalie was still available at that point. The Avalanche have only ever selected a goalie in the first round once. It was their first-ever draft pick as the Avalanche, and they chose Marc Denis with their #25 draft selection. I mean, that was neither the best nor the worst pick they’ve ever made in the first round.
I’d hope that GM Joe Sakic would at least consider drafting a goalie like Askarov in the first round. He really could go a long way toward settling the goalie position for the Colorado Avalanche for years to come.