The 2021-22 season is one that Nashville Predators goalie Yaroslav Askarov doesn’t want to relive.
The 19-year-old former No. 11 overall pick was limited to just 16 total games over the course of the year between stints in the KHL (six), VHL (nine) and World Junior Championship (one), and he was relegated to a third-string role behind Lars Johansson and Alexander Samonov on his primary team, SKA St. Petersburg.
“He doesn’t want to really talk about last season,” Predators forward Egor Afanasyev said Monday at development camp, translating for Askarov. “He flipped the page and he’s very focused and excited for the next season.”
Predators General Manager David Poile made it a priority in early April to bring his top prospect to North America the first chance he got, publicly stating he felt Askarov was being punished by SKA St. Petersburg in the form of limited playing time because the club was going to lose him to the NHL at some point.
The Predators’ concern for Askarov heightened with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the NHL’s subsequent decision to sever ties with the Russian-based KHL shortly after.
In fact, Nashville’s worries didn’t subside until the weekend when Askarov touched down on North American soil for the final time after traveling back to Russia following the conclusion of the AHL playoffs.
Askarov was reportedly training at Kupchino Arena in Russia, the same arena where Philadelphia Flyers prospect Ivan Fedotov was picked up by police and detained for allegedly evading Russian military service ahead of his planned move to the U.S.
“I was very nervous but thank God everything was pretty smooth [leaving Russia and coming to the U.S.],” Askarov said.
While he hasn’t played in a meaningful game since Jan. 13, Askarov, who signed his entry-level contract with the Predators in mid-May, did get to experience two separate postseason runs in 2021-22.
His first came with SKA St. Petersburg, which made it to the KHL’s Western Conference Final before falling in seven games to eventual Gagarin Cup champion CSKA Moscow. His second came with the Milwaukee Admirals, who lost in the AHL quarterfinals to the eventual Calder Cup champion Chicago Wolves.
Although he didn’t see any postseason action, that brief stint with the Admirals was enough to invigorate Askarov for a fresh start.
“It’s a great thing that he came to Milwaukee,” Afanasyev said. “He was in awe with how good of a level it is in the AHL. He hasn’t had a game obviously in the NHL, but he was ... very grateful that he came at the end of the season because he got to experience it a little bit.”
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