Prospects News & Rumors: Benson, McIsaac, Askarov & More

The Edmonton Oilers loan another one of their prospect to Europe, the Detroit Red Wings loan a former second-round pick to the Finnish Liiga, and Yaroslav Askarov picks up two awards during the first week of the 2020-21 KHL season.

Oilers Loan Benson to Switzerland

The Edmonton Oilers have loaned left winger Tyler Benson to the GCK Lions in the Swiss League. Originally drafted 32nd overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, he spent the 2019-20 season playing primarily with the Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League. He amassed nine goals and 36 points in 47 games played. It was a slight dip in production from the 66 points in 68 games he posted during the 2018-19 season. He also made his NHL debut, playing seven games with the Oilers and recording one assist.

Benson will be making a case to stick in the NHL this season, so the extra playing time will be beneficial for the Edmonton native. He was also on the Oilers return to play roster this summer. He is expected to return to the team when training camps open.

Red Wings Loan McIsaac For 2020-21 Season

The Detroit Red Wings have loaned defenseman Jared McIsaac to HPK in the Finnish Liiga for the entire 2020-21 season. It’s a bit of a shift from the norm with most teams loaning players until training camps begin. However, with uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 AHL season, it’s not majorly surprising. Originally drafted 36th overall in 2018 NHL Entry Draft, he spent the 2019-20 season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Halifax Mooseheads and Moncton Wildcats. He amassed four goals and 19 points in 28 games played. He also recorded four points in seven games for Canada at the 2020 World Junior Championship, winning a gold medal.

This will be McIsaac’s first taste of professional hockey and he’ll be playing in one of the top leagues in the world outside of the NHL. It’s a shrewd move for the 20-year-old, as he’ll gain some valuable experience playing against difficult competition. He is expected to return to the team after his one-year loan expires.

Askarov Named KHL Goaltender & Rookie of the Week

Yaroslav Askarov is off to a hot start in the 2020-21 KHL season. THW’s own Greg Boysen covered his amazing start and an exceptional save in Monday’s edition. He posted a 2-1-0 record with a .974 save percentage and 0.74 goals-against average over three contests. It culminated in Askarov winning goaltender and rookie of the week honors.

With the 2020 NHL Entry Draft fast approaching, Askarov is making a case to have his name called in the top-15. He’ll spend the full season in the KHL playing for SKA St. Petersburg. Since 2000, only 13 goaltenders have been selected in the first round, with Carey Price being the last to break the top-10.

Prospect of the Day – Vasili Ponomaryov

For today’s prospect, we stick with the Russian talent and take a look at Shawinigan Cataractes center Vasili Ponomaryov. NHL Central Scouting has Ponomaryov ranked 48th among North American skaters. In his final rankings, THW’s Larry Fisher ranked him 36th among all players.

Ponomaryov spent the 2019-20 season playing in the QMJHL with the Shawinigan Cataractes. It was his first season in North American after being selected ninth overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. He amassed 18 goals and 31 assists in 57 games played. He finished third in team scoring, trailing Xavier Bourgault and Mavrik Bourque. Prior to coming to North America, he played for MHK Krylia Sovetov Moskva in Russia’s MHL.

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Ponomaryov is an extremely capable point-producing forward. He’s an exceptionally creative playmaker who can execute a wide variety of passes and can beat defenders one-on-one with an arsenal of moves. He’s got quick hands in tight and has high-end agility and above-average straight-line speed. He possesses a hard and accurate shot, but isn’t really a shoot-first type of player.

Vasily Ponomaryov Shawinigan Cataractes
Vasily Ponomaryov of the Shawinigan Cataractes (Photo: Olivier Croteau)

THW’s own Peter Baracchini had this to say about Ponomaryov’s impact on the defensive side of the game.

While he does have great offensive instincts, his defensive game will enable him to become a strong and capable two-way centre in the NHL. On the other side of the puck, Ponomaryov is incredibly patient with his vision and awareness, waiting for the right opportunity to attack the opposing player. His speed allows him to close gaps and keep the opposition to the outside and he has a great reach to poke-check the puck. While scouts like players with an offensive game, Ponomaryov displays both which will make him valuable.

Although he might squeeze his way into the late first round, it’s likely that Ponomaryov hears his name called somewhere in the second round. He has a solid all-around skillset, but the numbers he put up in the QMJHL pale in comparison to his fellow draft-eligible forwards. He’s the type of player who will be used in all situations and will fit nicely on a team’s middle-six at the NHL level. At the very least he’s on track to be a capable third-line centre who can chip in on the power play and penalty kill.