The Edmonton Oilers are in need of goaltending help both at the NHL level and through their organization’s depth chart.
It’s one of the clubs most glaring needs and while Mikko Koskinen looked like a different goaltender. Among all NHL goalies playing >1000 minutes, Koskinen’s 5v5 save percentage (.924) ranked 22nd among 54 goalies.
His +4.53 goals saved above average ranked 20th among that same group. Mike Smith, meanwhile, had his 5v5 save percentage (.900) rank 52nd and his GSAA ranked 53rd.
So in the short-term, the Oilers need to find a clear upgrade over Mike Smith, but that’s only half of the issue for the organization. Looking into the Oilers pipeline pf signed goalies at first glance, the Oilers don’t have much in the cupboards.
Stuart Skinner is still just turning pro and struggled in his first AHL season. Shane Starrett likely won’t get a new contract as an RFA. Dylan Wells and Olivier Rodrigue are still unknowns.
So when the conversation turns to Octobers NHL entry draft, there’s a potential solution in the form of Russian goalie Yaroslav Askarov. He is, by all accounts, one of the top goaltending prospects the league has seen in a long time. The hype is similar to that of Carey Price had as a prospect.
He posted great numbers in the VHL last year as a 17-year-old with a 12-3-3 record and a .920 save percentage. At 6’3, Askarov brings high hockey IQ along with impressive intangibles.
As much as Askarov is appearing to be one of the next great goaltenders, I think the Oilers should avoid drafting him if he were to fall to 14th overall. While Askarov would fill a huge spot in the Oilers organization, there are other, much larger holes that could be addressed through the first round of the draft.
Edmonton is in need of young, offensive players on entry-level deals to help fill out their forward ranks and more importantly, players who could be top-six weapons for years to come. I think that’s where the Oilers should turn their heads with the 14th pick to someone like Seth Jarvis, who has been compared to Brayden Point.
And in another aspect, too, the Oilers have one other young goalie who might be the future in net: Ilya Konovalov. Currently unsigned by the Oilers, Konovalov is playing for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL as the clubs starting goaltender at 22-years-old and is in his third year doing so.
In 96 KHL games played, he’s posted a 47-35-7 record, a .923 save percentage and a 2.09 GAA along with 14 shutouts. Those are very impressive numbers for the young man, and there’s good reason to believe that he could be a solution for the Oilers in net.
Here’s what The Athletic’s prospect guru Corey Pronman had to say about Konovalov in his organization prospect rankings from this August:
Konovalov’s numbers were down from two seasons ago when he was drafted, but when I watched him I still saw a lot of the things I liked in his draft season. His hockey sense is tremendous. He never looks rattled in the net, moving with the puck seamlessly and always seems square with the play. He’s so efficient in how he moves around the crease. Konovalov is quick — it’s not elite quickness for a 5-foot-11 goalie, but he’s quick and it never seems like he has to make a dive across the net. He will need to cut down on some of the long-range goals I saw go in on him, probably a byproduct of his size.
And with that, the Oilers are likely better using their first-round draft capital on another part of the organization because everyone knows how much more depth Edmonton could use. Lots of recent draft picks have graduated, or are graduating to the NHL level. Kailer Yamamoto, Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, and Tyler Benson, just to name a few. The Oilers would be wise in replenishing their organizational depth.
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