Milwaukee Admirals goaltender Yaroslav Askarov may be back in the NHL sooner than initially expected.
The 21-year-old Russian has been playing lights-out lately, posting shutouts in three of his last four starts and being named to the AHL All-Star roster all while making quite the impression on Nashville Predators general manager Barry Trotz.
.@mkeadmirals move into sole possession of first place with another shutout here in Henderson. That's three shutouts in four games this month, all by Yaroslav Askarov. Elite stuff defending the Admirals goal right now! #MILhockey
— Jon Greenberg (@JonAdmirals) January 13, 2024
“He’s playing really well and it looks like he’s breaking through what I call another glass ceiling as a prospect,” Trotz saidon 102.5 The Game on Tuesday. “…He’s on the path to get some more (NHL) games. Right now, we have a full roster with 23 — unless we get some injuries or move some people down, we don’t have a lot of flexibility right now.”
Askarov began the year on a high note. He won three of his first five starts, allowing two goals or fewer with a save percentage of .940 or better in four of them.
However, an injury sidelined him for the next two weeks and he struggled to find his footing in his first five games back, in which he posted a 1-3-1 record and had arguably his worst performance of the season (four goals allowed on 14 shots in 28:42 of ice time before being pulled) with Trotz in attendance.
But around mid-December is when Askarov really took off.
Since Dec. 8, he’s made 10 starts between the AHL (nine) and NHL (one), allowing two goals or fewer in nine of them with a save percentage of .923 or better in seven of them, including the three shutouts, and earning his first NHL win against the Washington Capitals on Dec. 30.
While many have chalked up Askarov’s sudden ascent to the top goaltending prospect in the NHL simply realizing his immense potential, Trotz has a different theory — one that may seem a bit implausible.
“I would say early in the year he looked like a young, top prospect who still looked like he had some minor league in his game,” Trotz said. “I would say that probably around Christmas it changed. … I want to say that it had a lot to do with going from the black pads to the white because it is known to — it’s a little bit of optics…wearing the black pads he looked smaller than he really is.
“Then by changing to the white pads and the white gloves and all of that, he looks massive in the net and I think that’s playing into the minds of the opposition now. They’re looking for the net and can’t really see it going, ‘This guys is massive.’”
There’s no tangible proof that Trotz’s hypothesis has any merit, but the numbers speak for themselves.
Through 19 AHL games, Askarov ranks second in goals-against average (2.01), third in save percentage (.926) and shutouts (3), and he’s tied for sixth in wins (12).
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