Predators take goalie Iaroslav Askarov with No. 11 pick in 2020 NHL Draft
The Predators have spent the last couple of months looking out for No. 11.
On Tuesday, finally, they found out who that pick would be. General manager David Poile and his staff decided on goalie Iaroslav Askarov, the 66th goalie taken in the first round in league history and the third in Predators history.
(Askarov's first name has commonly been spelled Yaroslav, but the team said Iaroslav is his preference.)
The team chose Chet Pickard, who never played in an NHL game, 18th overall in 2008 and Brian Finley sixth overall in 1999
Askarov has his goals set high when he arrives in the NHL.
"Be the greatest Russian goalie," he said through a translator. "No. 1 in the NHL."
First he will have to get there. Askarov is under contract in the KHL through 2022, where Poile expects Askarov to play out his contract while he develops.
Predators captain Roman Josi announced Askarov was the team's first-round pick in an NHL Draft that was supposed to take place more than three months ago in Montreal.
Instead, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the draft was held virtually.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he isn't certain when the 2020-21 season will begin but said Jan. 1 is the target date.
Askarov, 18, became the eighth goalie taken in the first round since 2010. The Panthers took Spencer Knight 13th last season. The 6-foot-4, 176-pound Askarov was 12-3-3 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.45 goals-against average in the Russian VHL league last season and played four games in the KHL.
Askarov said his goalie idol is Jonathan Quick, who has played 13 seasons and won two Stanley Cups with the Kings. He said through a translator he is looking forward to meeting Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros and learning from them.
"He's a high-end talent," Predators assistant general manager Jeff Kealty said of Askarov last week. ... There's no question he's a top-end goaltending prospect."
Franchise mainstay Pekka Rinne has one year left on his contract and turns 38 years old soon. Juuse Saros emerged into the starting goalie role before the season was paused and remained so when play resumed this summer.
While the Predators also have Connor Ingram in their system, Kealty said last week "you'll never go wrong with top players that can play."
"There's all sorts of things that happen down the road, and you want to have the best asset," he said.
Poile has said repeatedly he'd like to improve his team from within. Part of that process is the draft. The Predators chose Philip Tomasino with the 24th overall pick last year, though it seems unlikely he'll compete for a roster spot this season.
As expected, winger Alexis Lafreniere was chosen first overall by the Rangers, who won the draft lottery after they were eliminated from the play-in round of this summer's postseason.
Last year on draft day the Predators traded defenseman P.K. Subban to the Devils to clear cap space for Matt Duchene. With the cap flat at $81.5 million next season, Poile and the Predators also could be active in free agency.
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