With the No. 14 overall pick, the Edmonton Oilers select… Yaroslav Askarov?

Leading up to the NHL draft, I’ll be profiling 10 players who the Oilers could consider taking with the No. 14 pick. Today, we have Yaroslav Askarov. 

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There’s quite a bit of skepticism when it comes to using high draft choices on goaltenders.

Goaltenders are wildly difficult to project, and, more so than with position players, they tend to be late-bloomers. Back in 2016, Travis Yost did a deep-dive for TSN that indicated that there’s a substantially higher bust rate among goaltenders drafted in the first round than there is when it comes to forwards and defencemen.

But, when teams do hit a home run on their first-round goaltender, it’s a game-changer for the franchise. Take a look at Andrei Vasilevskiy manning the net for the Tampa Bay Lightning right now. He was the team’s No. 19 overall pick in 2012 and he’s now arguably the best goaltender in the league, one win away from the Stanley Cup.

Could Yaroslav Askarov, the top goaltender in the 2020 draft class, become the next Vasilevskiy?

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Yaroslav Askarov

Date of Birth: June 16, 2002

Country: Russia

Position: Goaltender

Height: 6’3″ / 190 cm

Weight: 176 lbs / 80 kg

Ranked #11 by TSN/McKenzie

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“Askarov remains calm and cool in the net and is always ready to make the next stop. He has often played up an age level or two, showing his maturity despite his age. Askarov has the ability to shake off bad goals and does not let them snowball by being prepared for the next scoring chance. He also battles well through traffic and activity around his net. Askarov understands the game. He will keep the play moving when necessary or look to cover up the puck if his defenders need a breather. Askarov has been a leader for his team, a player that the defenders can look to stand tall in times that they need it the most.

His game is reminiscent of Braden Holtbyof the Washington Capitals, though this is not a talent comparison but just one based on style.” – Ben Kerr, Last Word on Hockey

“I wouldn’t be foolish enough to give assurances, but Askarov passes a lot of the tests I’m looking for in a goalie. He’s 6-foot-3, has tremendous quickness, an elite brain, and a great mentality in net where he combines efficiency and aggressiveness that distinguishes him from other very quick netminders.

Yes, he had a terrible world juniors. And even his last tournament versus his age group didn’t go well. But there were U20 international games over the season where he was one of the best players on the ice as a very young 17-year-old. He almost single-handedly delivered a gold medal to Russia’s U18 team at the Hlinka Gretzky and at the U17 world challenge, and he came within inches of doing so as an underage goalie at the U18 world championships.

His ability to play up versus men at 17, he turns 18 on June 16, to hold his own and even earn some time in the KHL, where he looked the part in a one-game appearance, was unique.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic

Only twice in franchise history have the Oilers used a first-round pick on a goaltender. In 1981, they used the No. 8 pick on Grant Fuhr, who went on to become a key member of multiple Stanley Cup teams and a Hall of Famer. In 2004, they used the No. 14 pick on Devan Dubnyk, who didn’t hit his stride as a quality NHLer until he joined the Minnesota Wild 10 years later.

Digging a little further, only once has Ken Holland used a first-round pick on a goaltender. That came in 2008 when he used the No. 30 pick on Tom McCollum, a goalie who would play just three games in the NHL. The most successful goalie that Holland drafted was Jimmy Howard, who the Red Wings took No. 64 overall in 2003.

As I said earlier, the hope with drafting a guy like Askarov is that he becomes a franchise goalie like Andrei Vasilevskiy. But, for every Vasilevskiy or Carey Price or Marc-Andre Fleury who become that star goalie, there’s an even longer list of names like Pascal LeClaire, Marek Schwartz, Al Montoya, Jack Campbell, or Jonathan Bernier who doesn’t.

Given the fact the Oilers have used a top-90 pick on a goaltender three years in a row (Stuart Skinner at No. 78, Olivier Rodrigue at No. 62, and Ilya Konovalov at No. 85) they might not be in the best position to take this risk. There’s also a very real chance that he won’t even be available to Edmonton at No. 14.

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