With the 11th pick in the 2020 NHL draft, the Nashville Predators selected 18-year old goaltender Iaroslav Askarov from SKA St. Petersburg of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League.
His junior hockey stats help explain why Askarov was the only goalie taken in the first round. Askarov was just 15 years
old when he recorded a 1.96 Goals Against Average (GAA) and a .913 save percentage in 16 games with an Under-16 team in his hometown of St. Petersburg. In 2018-19, Askarov moved to Russia's Minor Hockey League and played 31 games with SKA-Varyagi, finishing with a 2.37 GAA and .921 SV%. Last season, Askarov played 18 games with SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (the second tier of Russian professional hockey between the MHL and the KHL) with a 2.45 GAA and a .920 SV%.
With the 2020-21 KHL season already underway, Askarov has played just three games with SKA-St. Petersburg yet is recording an insane stat line with a 0.74 GAA and a .974 SV%.
Askarov's size will be a major benefactor in net; at 6'4, he's an inch shorter than Pekka Rinne, five inches taller than Juuse Saros, and two inches taller than prospect Connor Ingram, who is likely his most direct competition as the Preds' future netminder. He maintains a wide netfront stance and crucial discipline as opposing teams try to pull him out of position, tracking the puck with an intimidating level of focus.
By next summer, the Preds' depth chart at goalie will probably resemble something like Saros-Ingram-Askarov. However, with the 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft looming, the Preds will only be able to protect one of their goalies. If Ingram is able to continue his success in the AHL and the Preds remained married to Saros as a starter, Seattle could scoop up Ingram and leave Askarov as Saros' immediate backup.
Askarov likely won't see NHL ice until the 2021-22 season at the earliest to give him time to mature and adapt to a new level of competition in Milwaukee. In any case, Askarov will be a thrill to watch once he lands in Nashville for good.