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Predators pick Yaroslav Askarov, rare goalie to go in first round of NHL Draft

Predators pick Yaroslav Askarov, rare goalie to go in first round of NHL Draft

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 17, 2020: SKA St Petersburg’s goaltender Yaroslav Askarov in a 2020/2021 KHL Regular Season ice hockey match between Spartak Moscow and SKA St Petersburg at CSKA Arena. Mikhail Japaridze/TASS (Photo by Mikhail JaparidzeTASS via Getty Images)

Mikhail Japaridze/TASS

Hockey teams often balk at drafting goalies with a high first-round pick, but the Predators did just that by selecting Yaroslav Askarov with the 11th pick of the 2020 NHL Draft.

After a rocky season, 35-year-old goalie Pekka Rinne may not be long for the Predators. With Juuse Saros, 25, pushing for the starting job, the Predators’ goalie situation seems settled. For now. But you don’t draft a goalie expecting that netminder to make a quick jump to the NHL.

Predators select goalie Askarov with high (No. 11) draft pick

While Askarov represents a rare high first-round pick by the Predators, it’s possible that such skittishness is starting to go away. After all, the Florida Panthers chose Spencer Knight with the 13th pick of the 2019 NHL Draft.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Predators and other teams thought of Andrei Vasilevskiy when considering drafting Askarov so high. Vasilevskiy put together a near-Conn-Smythe-level run after the Lightning broke patterns by selecting him 19th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.

Again, selecting a goalie so high is still considered a gamble. That said, Askarov is believed to be as can’t-miss as you can get for a goalie prospect. It will be fascinating to see if this pays off for the Predators down the line, whether Saros and Poile are still there or not.

Askarov is signed in the KHL until 2022, so it will take time even if Askarov is a quick study.