Askarov

Yaroslav Askarov

Just two weeks after signing a professional tryout contract with the Nashville Predators’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, top prospect Yaroslav Askarov and the Preds agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract on Monday.

With Askarov under contract, the organization’s plan in goal for the foreseeable future is all but mapped out. 

Askarov, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, is currently with the Admirals for their Calder Cup Playoff run after finishing up his KHL season with SKA Saint Petersburg in the Western Conference Final.

In three seasons with SKA St. Petersburg, Askarov registered an 8-5-2 record with a .937 save percentage and 1.48 goals-against average, including a 2-1-2 record with a .913 save percentage and 1.81 GAA this season. He last played in a 2-1 win over HC Sochi on Jan. 13. Askarov became the second-youngest goalie to ever start a KHL game in November of 2019 at the age of 17.

The 19-year-old Russian is expected to take over, or at least split starting duties with Devin Cooley for the Admirals in 2022-23 once Connor Ingram makes the expected jump to the Predators’ NHL roster next season.

One of the AHL’s top goalies this year, Ingram led the league with five shutouts, and ranked second in wins (30), 12th in save percentage (.917) and 17th in goals-against average (2.70). The 25-year-old also had league-high numbers in starts (54), minutes played (3,195:15), saves (1,541) and shots faced (1,685).

Ingram, who had a .913 save percentage and 3.63 goals-against average in three games plus two periods against the top-seeded Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, likely showed enough to shoo David Rittich out the door and lockdown the Predators’ No. 2 job behind Juuse Saros moving forward.

Depending on how quickly he develops, Askarov, who’s been called the next Carey Price by several draft scouts, could be fast-tracked to the NHL as early as the 2023-24 season. 

If Askarov’s development is hyper-accelerated and the Predators deem him ready to start by the 2024-25 season, Saros, who would be under contract for another year at $5 million, could become expendable.

Two or three years from now, the Predators will likely be deciding which goalie to trade for a hefty bounty of prospects and draft picks.

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_