At this Tuesday's draft, a truly elite goalie prospect is there for the taking...if the Senators want him
The case for drafting Askarov is simple: The Senators goaltending situation over the years is similar to the Chicago Bears QB play since the late 80’s. Just passable enough to get by, but not good enough to win you the big one.
I enjoy a good “Hamburglar” story as much as the next guy, and who doesn’t like reminiscing about the time Ray Emery fought Martin Biron AND Andrew Peters in the same line brawl? But can anyone honestly remember a time where you could say Ottawa had a bonafide top 5 goaltender in the league? (If you’re going to bring up Dominik Hasek’s cup of coffee he had in Ottawa before injuring his groin then I’ll give you partial marks, but 40 games doesn’t exactly scream “franchise netminder”). If you need proof of why having a franchise goaltender matters look no further than the list of the last 13 Stanley Cup winning teams:
2020: Vasilevskiy (Drafted by Tampa)
2019: Binnington (Drafted by St. Louis)
2018: Holtby (Drafted by Washington)
2017: Murray (Drafted by Pittsburgh)
2016: Murray (Drafted by Pittsburgh)
2015: Crawford (Drafted by Chicago)
2014: Quick (Drafted by LA)
2013:Crawford (Drafted by Chicago)
2012: Quick (Drafted by LA)
2011: Thomas (Drafted by Quebec, but never played until breaking through with Boston)
2010: Niemi (Undrafted, signed by Chicago)
2009: Fleury (Drafted by Pittsburgh)
2008: Osgood (Drafted by Detroit)
"Can anyone honestly remember a time where you could say Ottawa had a bonafide top 5 goaltender in the league?”
In fact you need to go all the way back to the 2007 Anaheim Ducks to find a starting goaltender who won the cup that wasn’t drafted by the team that won (Giguere was drafted by Hartford in 1995). And even at that, he only played 30 games total across 3 seasons with Calgary and Hartford before spending a decade with the Ducks. What does this mean? Well for starters it seems to put to rest the notion that you can acquire a goaltender (be it through trade or FA signing) who will bring your franchise a Stanley Cup (see Andersen, Frederik for proof of concept). But more so than that it hammers home the fact that teams who win championships do it with home grown goaltending.
Which is why drafting Askarov shouldn't just be a “nice to have” idea for the Senators, it should be their number two priority right behind taking whichever of the Big 3 isn’t taken by NY or LA at no. 3. In the world of click bait where websites and scouts will release bogus draft rankings sometimes with the sole purpose of generating an uproar of “I can’t believe they ranked him over him!” Askarov is the run away consensus number 1 goaltender across the board. It’s not even close.
In his VHL (Div 2 Russian league under the KHL) debut he posted a .920 save percentage and 2.45 GAA in 18 games. This year Askarov was promoted to the KHL with St. Petersburg SKA and has posted a .974 save percentage and 0.74 GAA through the first 3 games of the 2020-21 season. The kid might be ready to play in the NHL today! But given the state of Ottawa’s rebuild, and the general tendency for goaltenders to develop more slowly than forwards/defensemen (a scary thought that the numbers above might actually IMPROVE by the time he gets to the show), you can likely expect to see him in 2 years time. By that stage of the game, Ottawa should be ready to compete for a playoff spot, and having the best international goaltending prospect on the planet ready to step in and take over will hopefully put them over the top.
So how do they actually go about drafting him? You could accomplish this by taking him outright at no. 5. Look to trade back the 5th pick for additional draft capital and take him later in the top 10 or 12 (make sure to get in front of Carolina at 13). Or you could package the Islanders 1st with additional 2nd rounders to move up and scoop him. There are a variety of ways the Sens can get this done, but the fact remains, it needs to get done.
You can’t win in the playoffs without goaltending, and history seems to suggest you can’t get elite goaltending unless you draft them yourself. The solution is simple: Draft Askarov