Hlinka Gretzky Cup: Canada Dethroned By Russia Thanks To Goaltender

Alexander Pashin kept his hot hand but Yaroslav Askarov was the real hero for Russia in dethroning Canada with a 3-2 victory in the gold-medal game of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Askarov was amazing in making 35 saves and Pashin scored twice — including what stood up as the winner — after previously netting a hat trick in the semifinals. This tournament was a coming-out party for Pashin with a team-high seven goals — one shy of the Hlinka record — while Askarov continued to live up to the hype as the top goaltending prospect for the 2020 NHL draft.

Together, they carried Russia to gold, with Askarov earning his fifth medal over the past 12 months in international competition, including his second gold.

Canada settled for silver despite outshooting Russia 37-13, including 14-7 in the first period, as the tournament favourites and two-time defending champions dominated possession from start to finish in falling short of the threepeat.

Quinton Byfield, with his third of the tournament, and Jean-Luc Foudy, with his second, scored for Canada, which trailed 1-0 and 2-1 at the intermissions. Russia went ahead 3-1 on Pashin’s second goal of the game at 8:39 of the third period, but Foudy gave Canada renewed life — and hope — with five minutes remaining in regulation, only to have Askarov steal the show — and the gold — in the dying seconds.

Vasili Ponomarev had the other goal for Russia — his second of the tournament — and also set up Pashin to open the scoring, but Askarov was clearly Russia’s player of the game despite team officials awarding that honour to Daniil Chayka, a 2021-eligible defenceman from OHL Guelph who was pointless on the day but did a good job of shutting down Canada’s attack in support of Askarov.

Canada’s player of the game also went to a defenceman in captain Jamie Drysdale, who was also held off the scoresheet but was noticeably effective at both ends of the ice — not only in the gold-medal game but over the entire tournament.

Dylan Garand finished with 10 saves for Canada after getting the start in place of Tristan Lennox, who suffered a lower-body injury during the shootout in Canada’s semifinal win over Sweden. That thrust Garand into a tough spot and he may have wanted another crack at a couple of Russia’s goals but performed admirably overall with a few notable stops amid limited activity.

Garand’s only prior appearance was an eight-save effort in shutting out Switzerland 8-0 on Tuesday, while Lennox manned the crease for Canada’s 6-0 blanking of Finland on Monday and 7-1 rout of the host Czech Republic on Wednesday before managing to finish Friday’s 3-2 triumph over Sweden despite getting hurt in the fourth round of a shootout that extended to eight rounds.

Canada and Russia were both unbeaten heading into the gold-medal game, though Canada had been more dominant through the round robin in outscoring their opposition 21-1.

Russia downed Finland 4-1 in Friday’s semifinal after opening with a 6-2 win over the United States on Monday, then defeating Sweden 3-0 on Tuesday and edging Slovakia 2-1 in overtime on Wednesday.

Sweden beat Finland 5-1 for bronze in that battle between Nordic rivals, which took place at the same time as the Canada-Russia final.

Here’s what stood out to this scout in Saturday’s championship game:

RELATED: 5 Storylines For Scouts at Hlinka Gretzky Cup

Askarov Tough to Beat

As expected, Askarov was Russia’s best player at this year’s Hlinka in showing why he’s considered a potential top-10 pick for 2020.

Craig Button, the former NHL GM serving as TSN’s head scout and colour commentator, kept comparing Askarov to Carey Price — and the more you watch Askarov, the more you can see Price. Except for the fact that Askarov catches with the opposite hand as a rare righty — only five NHL goaltenders caught right-handed last season.

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Yaroslav Askarov looked like a young Carey Price in stoning Canada during the gold-medal game. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Askarov certainly has the poise of Price and the same solid positioning. He played his angles perfectly and didn’t give Canada anything to shoot at. He was never really out of position, which allowed him to make challenging saves look routine.

That started early on, when Askarov made a shoulder save on Byfield’s hard shot off the rush two minutes into the first period. That matchup was one of the games within the gold-medal game, with Byfield and Askarov projected by many as the top two prospects in this tournament and the best at their respective positions.

Askarov also had Seth Jarvis’ number, stopping him from the slot in the first period and then on the doorstep for another point-blank chance in the second period.

Askarov was Russia’s best penalty-killer too, staring down Hendrix Lapierre and Jamie Drysdale on consecutive shots when Canada was pressing for the 2-2 equalizer on a second-period man advantage. Again, he looked so confident in making those stops that they appeared easy when the Lapierre chance would have been particularly difficult for anybody else.

Askarov was also active with his stick, pokechecking Jake Neighbours as he cut to the crease for a seemingly dangerous chance and breaking up several attempted passes.

Canada’s leading goal-getter Cole Perfetti didn’t have many good looks through two periods — and passed one up in a prime spot — but when he did drive the net on a power play towards the end of the middle frame, Askarov turned him back without flinching.

Askarov didn’t blink on Perfetti’s chances in the third period either, inhaling a quick release off a feed from Byfield, then snaring a wrister labelled for the top corner moments later. Perfetti was shooting more in the final frame, but Askarov was up to the task with both those stops coming while Russia was shorthanded again.

Askarov denied Perfetti once more with less than two minutes remaining as Canada poured it on with an extra attacker.

Askarov saved his best for last by stretching out to rob Byfield, taking away a golden opportunity on a scramble rebound of Drysdale’s one-timer from the point. That was the save of the tournament given the timing, as Askarov delivered on Button’s billing as a ‘generational’ goaltender.

For more on Askarov, this scouting report was very well done and features plenty of pre-Hlinka highlights.

Pashin Rising in Rankings

Let me preface this by saying I respect Sam Stern’s scouting — he’s a terrific follow on Twitter and has a keen eye for talent — but we have to agree to disagree on this front.


Pashin is a prime example of a prospect that should be shooting up the preseason rankings thanks to his Hlinka performance. He was a breakout star here and that shouldn’t be disregarded, nor discredited. That doesn’t mean he’s suddenly a first-rounder, but his stock is absolutely on the rise coming out of this tournament. Or at least it should be.

Pashin isn’t the only riser. I could rattle off at least 15 prospects that are trending up to some degree — and many of them significantly — following the Hlinka. Or at least they should be.

Stay tuned for that story next week, but I won’t be singling out any fallers since I do agree with Sam to that end. This is a short tournament in the middle of summer and most these prospects aren’t in midseason form, so it’s not fair to knock those who underwhelmed or perhaps left us wanting more. But those who excelled and exceeded expectations are deserving of a bump in the preseason rankings.

As I tweeted in rebuttal, they wouldn’t host this tournament and NHL scouts wouldn’t travel across the world to attend it if the Hlinka was meaningless. Scouts would have better things to do in August, and we wouldn’t be waking up early on the west coast on a weekend to watch it either. We are watching for a reason, right? Not solely for entertainment value.

The Hlinka is the first best-on-best showcase of the draft year and seeing the top prospects go head to head with their draft peers is always important for evaluation. These are key viewings that set the stage for the season to come — and thus should impact the preseason rankings, within reason.

I won’t be moving Perfetti ahead of Byfield or anything crazy — my preseason rankings will be publishing on Monday — but those who rose to the occasion and stood out from the pack at the Hlinka warrant more than mere praise in my opinion.

That includes Pashin, who took a nice feed from Ponomarev in snapping his first far-side on Garand before going short-side for his second — a quick shot off a centering pass following a foiled 2-on-1 rush that resulted in the golden goal.

Pashin had a pretty good chance for another hat trick in the latter half of the third period, but a Canadian defender deflected that dangerous shot wide. He’s undersized but has a real attacking mentality, a quick skater with slick stickhandling and a wicked release — reminiscent of another Russian winger in Artemi Panarin. Their last names rhyme, so expect to hear more of that comparison with regards to Pashin.

Perfetti Gets Scoring Record

Perfetti was finally held off the scoresheet — he had goals in each of Canada’s first four games — but still came away with the single tournament scoring records

How is that possible, you ask? His shootout winner from the semifinal wound up counting as a goal under Hlinka tournament rules, giving him a total of 12 points to set that record, while also giving him eight goals to tie Vasili Podkolzin’s single tournament record from last year.

Perfetti was quiet by his standards for the first half of the gold-medal game but came on strong, only to be stymied time and again by Askarov.

Team Canada coach Mike Dyck gave Perfetti every opportunity to get that goals record and to get his team to overtime by double-shifting the sniper in the third period. Perfetti took a few spins with Byfield and Jarvis in addition to his regular linemates Lapierre and Justin Soudif.

Quick Hitters

Byfield was better in the final against Russia than in the semi against Sweden. He tied the gold-medal game at 1-1 with a power-play goal in the second period by cleaning up a rebound of Connor McClennon’s chance for his biggest contribution — to finish the tournament with five points (three goals, two assists). But Byfield was back to being a playmaker against Russia — setting up Will Cuylle and Perfetti for quality chances — while also going to the net on a regular basis and paying the price to distract Askarov, who slammed the door shut on that final flurry.

Lapierre got the secondary assist on Byfield’s goal for his 11th point (3-8-11), which would have tied the former single tournament record that was shared by Podkolzin (2018), Alexis Lafreniere (2018), Nathan MacKinnon (2012) and Thomas Novak (2014). Lapierre led this year’s tournament in assists, with eight, and put his name into the top-10 conversation for the 2020 NHL draft.

Two WHL forwards also enjoyed strong showings in the gold-medal game. Jarvis had his best outing since scoring twice in Canada’s opener, while McClennon made his biggest impact in playing with more determination by taking the puck to the net and getting rewarded with that assist on Byfield’s goal. McClennon didn’t have a great tournament and he was hurt for part of the semifinal, but he finished on a high note and should still be ranked in the first-round range.

Ryan O’Rourke got back into Canada’s defence rotation in the final after not getting a single shift in the semi. O’Rourke registered a shot on goal towards the end of the first period and seemed to fare well in his limited ice-time, though his best play backfired as he slid to break up that 2-on-1 just prior to Pashin’s 3-1 goal.

For Russia, there was also lots to like about Ponomarev, who fended off Jeremie Poirier for a wraparound goal to put Russia up 2-1 eight minutes into the second period. And his spinning drop pass on Pashin’s opening goal was another sign of high-end skill from the forward bound for QMJHL Shawinigan.

Strangely, all of Russia’s defencemen were left-handed, with Shakir Mukhamadullin the most impressive — at least offensively in quarterbacking their power play. Button had him ranked shockingly high at No. 17 heading into the tournament, but Mukhamadullin might have worked his way into the top 31 — into the first round — for other scouts who put stock in this showcase.