Chicago Blackhawks: Draft Prospect – Yaroslav Askarov

With the Chicago Blackhawks’ goalie Corey Crawford getting older, it’s time for the Blackhawks to make a move to a new goalie, maybe even in the 2020 NHL draft.

If you look at the Chicago Blackhawks roster throughout their dynasty, you’ll notice that the team was led by generational and superstar talent at virtually every position. In this current Blackhawks rebuild you have some building blocks but not enough to lay the foundation.

I think it’s clear that Kirby Dach is the future center/forward of the organization while Adam Boqvist is the future of the backend. With that in mind, the Blackhawks system also has some pieces to build around them.

What their system doesn’t have is a generational superstar or a goaltender for that matter. However, in this draft the Blackhawks can hit two birds with one stone. Yes, I am talking about Yaroslav Askarov.

Where would the Blackhawks have been without Corey Crawford? It’s tough to answer that question, yet it is one the Blackhawks will likely have to answer soon if they don’t change their fate in the crease.

“He’s the best goalie I’ve seen entering the draft since Carey Price.” – Craig Button

If that’s not high praise, I’m not sure what is. If you look at teams like the Canadiens and the Rangers during their recent hay days in the mid-to-late 2010s they were both carried by their goaltenders. Sure each team had their fair shares of talent like McDonagh, St. Louis, Pacioretty, and Subban but without Price or Lundqvist each team wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far.

While scouts have said Askarov as early as five is justifiable, I don’t see him going that early given the other talent in the top ten. Therefore, he should be there if the Blackhawks end up in their predicted eight to eleven range. As we all know, the Blackhawks defense has continuously been bailed out by the likes of Crawford and Lehner this season.

Over the next few years many of the Blackhawks young blueliners should be able to establish themselves as regulars in the NHL. At this point Askarov should be ready for his NHL debut. Looking at teams like Philadelphia and New York with Hart and Shesterkin, respectively both the teams and players are having success at earlier stages than expected.

The same could be expected with the potential number one goalie Askarov. Price took only two years in the minors before establishing himself as an NHL goalie in 2007-08 after being draft in 2005.

Askarov played one game in the KHL this year and 18 in Russia’s second-best league the VHL. During the 18 games Askarov posted a .920 save percentage and 2.45 goals against. He was also one of Russia’s top goaltenders at the WJC this year at just 17. Despite his underwhelming performance scouts are still very high on him. Askarov also dominated at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with a .960 save percentage and 1.25 goals against.

This is where I first saw Askarov and right away knew he was a special talent. He would ultimately lead the Russians to a gold medal in a 35 save performance in the championship game against team Canada.

Askarov’s current contract with SKA St. Petersburgh runs through the 2021-22 season, therefore we should expect to see him in the NHL during the 2022-23 season. I know Blackhawk fans want someone who is more NHL ready such as Lundell, but unless a guy like Raymond falls, no one will have nearly the upside of Askarov.

I know I would rather draft a generational talent goaltender as opposed to a projected 2nd/3rd line center or 2nd line winger. It is also worth noting that Askarov is a right-hand catching goalie which is a rarity in the NHL today. While there a ton of great players where the Blackhawks are currently projected, there really isn’t any generational talent available outside of the young Russian star.