Let's Talkarov About Askarov
Edmonton is currently slated to select 14th overall in the 2020 Draft. A few blogs ago I misspoke when I stated that this draft class wasn't the best in recent history. Alexis Lafreniere, the dynamic winger is the consensus first overall selection in this draft. Looking at the past decade of 1st overall picks, where would he have been ranked? Certainly behind the likes of McDavid, MacKinnon, and Matthews. Going back even further I don't think he will end up in the same class as Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos, Tavares, or Kane. This draft class may not have a generational talent like the classes I mentioned; it does however have an abundance of high end skilled players throughout the first round.
One of these players that has received an abundance of talk right now is Russian goaltender Yaroslav Askarov. The 6'3 180lb 18 year old from Omsk, Russia has been hyped as the best goaltending prospect since Carey Price. He has posted astounding numbers since he was 15 years old. He is lightning fast, has perfect positioning and seems like he will certainly win a Vezina or two in his career.
And Edmonton should 100% not draft him.
For every Carey Price that is selected in the first round, I can show you a Rick DiPietro. Just look up "Biggest Goalie Busts" and you will find plenty. A quick search for me led me to Patrick DesRochers, drafted 14th overall in 1998, Riku Helenius drafted 15th overall in 2006, and Marek Schwarz drafted 17th overall in 2004. None of these goalies would go on to have successful NHL careers.
Unlike highly touted forwards or defensemen who can come into the NHL when they are 20-21, it is incredibly rare to see a goaltender get regular games until they are at least 24. This leaves scouts forced to try and assess a 17 year old and try and figure out what they will look like over seven years later.
Let's take a look at the ten best goalies from last season, based on their 5 on 5 SV%. I am defining NHL Regular on at what point these goalies no longer were bouncing between different leagues.
Tuuka Rask - Drafted 1st round 21 Overall in 2005 - NHL Regular at age 23
Philipp Grubauer - Drafted 4th round 112 Overall in 2010 - NHL Regular at age 24
Elvis Merzlikins - Drafted 3rd round 76 Overall in 2014 - NHL regular at age 26
Linus Ullmark - Drafted 6th round 163 Overall in 2012 - NHL regular at age 27
Connor Hellebuyck - Drafted 5th round 130 Overall in 2012 - NHL regular at age 24
Andrei Vasilevkiy - Drafted 1st round 19 Overall in 2012 - NHL regular at age 23
Tristan Jarry - Drafted 2nd round 44 Overall in 2013 - NHL regular at age 25
Corey Crawford - Drafted 2nd round 52 Overall in 2003 - NHL regular at age 26
Robin Lehner - Drafted 2nd round 46 Overall in 2009 - NHL regular at age 23
Joonas Korpisalo - Drafted 3rd round 62 Overall in 2012 - NHL regular at age 26
Only two of the top goalies from this past season were drafted in the first round and none of these goalies became regular NHLers until at least the age of 23. Askarov has the hype but history has shown us that the most successful goalies are the ones who take time and develop in the proper leagues.
Time is the key word there as it is something that should not be on the Edmonton Oilers side. The Oilers core is all in the prime of their careers and the time to win should be right now. Holland needs to focus on building a group around these players that will help them to compete.
With a deep draft such as this, Edmonton has a very good shot at drafting a forward that could be an impact NHL player in two years, fitting perfectly into this core. With a goalie, the odds are much higher you are playing a four or five year waiting game.
Reports are already out that Holland has been doing his due diligence to improve the goaltending of this team, inquiring on capable NHL players such as Matt Murray in Pittsburgh and Darcy Kuemper in Arizona. Goaltending moving forward for this team should be solved this way, not waiting for the next big thing.
The funny thing is, the Oilers might have already drafted their goalie of the future in Russian Ilya Konovalov. The 22 year old 5'11 goalie is not your typical big netminder, but his athleticism has propelled him through his career. Last season through 40 games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, he posted a 2.45GAA and a SV% of 0.912%, the worst numbers of his professional career. The year prior he posted a 0.930SV% through 45 games.
This season Konovalov is off to a hot start going 3-1 in his first 4 games with a SV% of 0.950% and a GAA of 1.57. It is early yet but so far he is the most interesting prospect between the pipes and I would have him ahead of the likes of Rodrigue or Skinner.
Askarov might be a player Oilers fans seven years from now are shaking their head at because they missed their chance to have him but the shorter term needs of this team outweighs the long term. Let someone else take the gamble with Askarov and instead focusing on selecting the best forward available.
Thanks for reading