2019-20 Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg
Date of Birth: June 16, 2002
Place of Birth: Omsk, Russia
Ht: 6-foot-3 Wt: 176 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 1st (Among EU goalies)
- Bob McKenzie, TSN: 10th
- HockeyProspect.com: 5th
- ISS: 1st (Among goaltenders)
- McKeen’s Hockey: 12th
- Future Considerations: 11th
- The Hockey Writers (Bell): 10th
It’s not often that we see a goaltender projecting to be a top-10 pick in an NHL draft. Goaltenders are a tricky bunch. Sometimes the ones taken high in the draft don’t turn out, while seventh-round picks end up being studs. Every now and then, a goaltender comes around where everyone knows – this guy is going to be good. Carey Price. Andrei Vasilevskiy. Yaroslav Askarov.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Askarov has been on the radar for years, regularly playing above his age. He’s just 17 years old still, but has already played a game in the KHL, he represented Russia at the 2020 World Junior Championship (granted, it wasn’t his best showing), and last season he played in the World Under-18 Hockey Championship at 16, practically single-handedly defeating one of the best American U18 teams ever assembled. For those who didn’t know him before the U18s, this definitely put him on the map.
If you still weren’t aware of him, you likely heard about him after the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he led Team Russia to a gold medal victory. His statistics in that tournament were the best of any netminder in the history of the tournament, finishing with a 1.25 goals against average (GAA) and a .960 save percentage (SV%).
So, what makes Askarov so great? His mobility is something so unique to watch. His upper body has minimal movement, only moving when he needs it to. But his lower body is almost constantly shaking in the net, looking like he’s jittery or bouncing in the net. As Scott Wheeler says below, some say this keeps him engaged and focused. It’s very different, but it works for him.
His movement in the crease is near perfect, pushing across the net effortlessly, combining athleticism with almost perfect edgework. On top of this, Askarov is a textbook netminder. As I wrote in an earlier look this season at Askarov: “From this core skill, the rest of his game seems, as mentioned, effortless. By being in position, he can always see the puck. His vision is excellent. Even when being screened he seems to be able to find a clear path to the puck. If not, his positioning helps him out.”
He anticipates the puck well, his rebound control is incredible, his stance and positioning are great. His glove hand is likely his best trait, as he has the ability to make game-changing glove saves, getting his team into a game immediately. One criticism I’ve seen is that he can go down a bit early sometimes, resulting in him getting beat high. It’s not always an issue, but it is there. Having that as one improvement to make at 17? I’ll take that any day.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Yaroslav Askarov – NHL Draft Projection
Askarov will be the first goaltender taken in the 2020 NHL Draft and it won’t be close. He’ll be the only one taken in the first round. Now, it’s just a matter of where. He has the talent to be a top-10 pick in this draft, going higher than last year’s Spencer Knight (drafted 13th overall by the Florida Panthers). This draft is stacked at the top, but Askarov should be right in that mix.
“There are things about Askarov’s game that make me uneasy. The glove hand is the most talked about but it’s not the only quirk. He’s one of the most jittery goalies I’ve ever watched. Instead of getting set in his stance and transferring his weight from one leg to the other in his pushes, he bounces. If you watch him closely when he’s in his stance, he’s jumping up and down on his toes. According to a couple of people I’ve asked about it in Russia, he says it keeps him engaged and focus. And though I can’t speak to whether or not it’s detrimental to his game, it’s definitely weird. Otherwise, Askarov has it all: He’s long and athletic, he’s got room to add more explosiveness to an already quick post-to-post game, he stays square to shooters and he regularly makes difficult saves look easy. When he’s in the zone, he steals games.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic (from: “Wheeler: Midseason ranking for the 2020 NHL Draft’s top 62 prospects” – The Athletic – Feb. 19, 2020)
“The best goaltending prospect we’ve seen in a very long time. Hits all the markers – size, composure, puck-tracking, elasticity, and competitive fire. His body of work thus far deserves a top-10 slot. Currently tearing up the VHL this year which is literally unheard of for a U18.” – Cam Robinson, DobberProspects
“Askarov is a special goalie prospect. He’s shown for years he can be a difference-maker at the highest levels. From defeating arguably the most talented USNTDP team as an underage, to stealing gold from a loaded Canadian Hlinka team, to being great as a 17-year-old versus men and even winning a game for SKA, he has shown he is a different type of goalie. Yes, he had a terrible world juniors. He let in soft goals I’ve never seen him let in before. He also is a goalie with a very long track record of success, a ton of athleticism, elite hockey sense, great puck tracking ability, and a ton of confidence and aggressiveness in net. I think he will become a top goaltender in the NHL.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic (from: “Pronman: Ranking the 2020 NHL Draft top prospects at midseason” – The Athletic -Jan. 29, 200).
- Glove Hand
- Puck Tracking
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Going Down Too Early
Not only does Askarov project to be a number one NHL goaltender, but it looks like he could be a regular contender for the Vezina Trophy as Goaltender of the Year. He has to work his way up, which can take a while for goaltenders, but depending on the team that takes him, it might not be long before we see Askarov take the NHL by storm.
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Goaltending – 9.5/10
In the 2018-19 season, Askarov played in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (WHC), and the World Under-18 Hockey Championship (U18s). In that, he won a silver in the Hlinka and the U18s and a gold medal in the WHC. In the WHC, he was named to the All-Star Team after posting a tournament-best 1.40 GAA and .948 SV%. The U18s saw him named to the All-Star Team as well, and he was named Best Goaltender.
In 2019-20, he played in the Hlinka again, winning a gold medal, and while it wasn’t his best performance, he helped Team Russia to a silver medal in the World Junior Championship.
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Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.