11. Yaroslav Askarov – G 6’3 176 lbs
The entire hockey community has anointed this young goaltender as the best NHL goalie prospect since Carey Price, but that seems like an unnecessary way of describing how good Askarov is. He possesses many of the traits Carey Price had at the same age: Great lateral movements, huge in his net, cat-like reflex and a very good puck-handler for a goalie.
However, Askarov’s rise to the top of the 2020 NHL Draft rankings has little to do with how he measures up to Carey Price at the same age, and more to do with how he’s writing his own unique and rather impressive story.
He was rather stellar as a 16 year old in the VHL (Russian junior league) last season, posting at strong .921 Save Percentage and a 2.37 Goals Against Average. He posted near identical numbers for Team Russia during the U-18s in May 2019 and was an instrumental piece in Russia’s victory in the Ivan Hlinka Gretzky tournament in August 2019.
This season has been a tale of two stories. From a professional perspective, Askarov has been quite good in the VHL (Russian minor league), posting a .922 Save Percentage and a Goals Against Average of 2.32. This earned him a call-up to the KHL’s SKA for one game this season, where the young net-minder put on a show, allowing only two goals against and making some highlight-reel saves (as seen in the video above).
From an international perspective, Askarov didn’t have the greatest showing at the world Junior Championships for Russia, as he looked rather shaky (especially on his glove side) and often let in very bad goals, which many could realistically chalk up to nerves. Even loosing his starting role to Amir Miftakhov after two games. He did come back and look exceptional versus a potent German team.
Is Askarov the second coming of Price? Unlikely. Could he very well be a Franchise goaltender that could realistically play 60 games a season for an NHL team? He certainly looks like it. Having ample time to develop in the KHL for at least another two seasons, Askarov will continue to grow in confidence and physically, making him even faster and stronger to repel incoming crease-crashers and put his nerves to rest. A calm Askarov is a dominant Askarov, and growing in maturity will go a long way in making this net-minder one of the better value picks in the draft.
Player Comparable: Carey Price
12. Dawson Mercer – RW 6′ 179 lbs
Dawson Mercer has been an offensive force over the last two season for the QMJHL’s Voltigeurs in Drummondville. He has great speed, awesome hands and provides clutch performances when his team most needs him. Mercer is one of those wingers coaches love to have on their roster when they’re down a goal, as he plays a high-tempo, speed and skill game, while also not shying away from the dirty areas or the front of the net.
In fact, Mercer is at his best within 10 feet of the net, as he is very good at potting home the garbage, as well as deflecting incoming shots. His chippy style propelled him to a 64 points season (30 goals and 34 assists) in 68 games.
On top of having a nose for the net, Mercer’s gritty game is also quite effective along the boards, as he is shifty and hard to track for defenders, creating huge areas of space for him to direct the puck for streaking teammates. Furthermore, he plays a very responsible game in the offensive zone, with very little turnovers. He seems to make the right play when he needs to.
This fiestyness to his game has launched his offensive game into the stratosphere, as Mercer put up a staggering 42 points (18 G and 24 A) in just 26 games for the Voltigeurs before being traded in a blockbuster move to the Chicoutimi Saguennens. With the ”Sags” going all in for the QMJHL playoffs, I fully expect to see Mercer’s number rise even more!
What many seem to like about Mercer are the little things he does oh so well. For one, his Hockey IQ is incredible. People marvel at how he’s always n the right place at the right time and, even if he’s not in a position to accept a pass, he is somehow always able to settle an errant pass and make something out of nothing. See the play below for an example!
When I watch Dawson Mercer play, I get flashbacks to how Jordan Eberle played in Junior for the Regina Pats a decade ago. Just a very intelligent player that could produce offense exactly when you need to. His offensive production will continue to increase, but his intangibles are really what make him, in my eyes, a very sure bet to play in the NHL.
Player Comparable: Jordan Eberle
13. Jan Mysak – LW 6′ 176lbs
Jan Mysak has been a revelation for me this year and is easily the prospect that has the most potential to rise even more in future draft rankings going forward. He is a speedy and talented forward that creates scoring chances off the rush when entering the offensive zone with speed.
He possesses good vision and very soft hands, which make him very slippery and hard to predict. However, above all, Mysak possesses a very hard and accurate wrist shot, capable of popping water bottles for days (see below). He is not afraid of playing against bigger and stronger players, as he has played in the Czech Extra Liga for the last two years putting a respectable 16 points in 56 games over that span.
He has an ability to drive the net and get in the real dangerous areas quickly and fearlessly. Mysak isn’t afraid to take a hit in order to make a play and he thinks the game at an elite level. He has been a little sheltered from North American fans due to his playing in the Czech league, but has since committed to coming over and playing for the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs for the remainder of the year (which also means he’ll be AHL eligible as an 18-year-old).
Mysak’s game reminds very much of a young Nikolaj Ehlers, as both relied on their speed and shot to drive offense, while also having a nose for the net and highlight-reel passing abilities down low. I fully expect Mysak to open a lot of eyes as soon as this spring as he jumps to the OHL and gets the opportunity to play with Arthur Kaliyev.
Player Comparable: Nikolaj Ehlers
14. Dylan Holloway – C/LW 6’0 192 lbs
Dylan Holloway is an intriguing prospect to say the least. Coming into the NCAA as a true freshman this season for the Wisconsin Badgers, Holloway has impressed many scouts right out of the gate with his powerful strides and his strength. Although he’s only billed at 6′, he can play some of the most aggressive and intimidating hockey along the boards and in the neutral zone.
Capable of playing both Left Wing and Center, the young freshman is always very noticeable on the ice, as he plays a good 200-ft game already and controls the puck quite well due to his frame. reach and surprisingly good skating.
The one thing that strikes you right away when watching Holloway play is the way he attacks the neutral zone and goes directly for the slot, regardless of coverage or space. He creates his own space and can be categorized as as a wrecking-ball.
His shot and hands are certainly very good, and he possesses one of the stronger backhand shots of the entire draft, which makes him an offense threat at all times, even on his off-wing.
Although he hasn’t wowed in the NCAA, having put up 8 points (3G and 5 A) in 19 games, it’s important to note that he is a true freshman and very rarely do you come out very strong offensively, especially on a team as bad as the Wisconsin Badgers. What is important, in Holloway’s case, is how he plays the game, and he plays it hard and with lots of skill which makes many see him as an effect top-6 forward down the line.
Player Comparable: Evander Kane
15. Connor Zary – C 6’1 181 lbs
Connor Zary is another one of those clutch scorers who displays great leadership and strong offense prowess. He plays a very powerful game, which is evidenced in his skating stride, as it allows him to fly at top-speed after only 2-3 strides.
He doesn’t possess dynamic, game-breaking skill, but he is an extremely effective player at putting the puck exactly where he wants to with a nice saucer pass or a precise wrist-shot. Even as a 17-year-old for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, Zary was able to use his main asset, his great Hockey IQ, to position himself in key areas for a goal, or find his teammates with crisp and smart passing for high-danger scoring chances.
Zary has a very fluid game that many believe will translate well at the NHL level because of his mix of physicality, smarts and speed. His progression in all of these aspects has been quite notable, as he went from 67 points (24 G 43 A) in 65 games as a 17-year-old to 53 points (25 G 28 A) in just 37 games this season.
Many are calling him the heart and soul of the WHL’s Blazers and has been their main offensive weapon this year. Furthermore, he goes to the net far more often this season, and it has contributed to his notable spike in goal scoring ( having already eclipsed last year’s total in almost half the games).
He plays a very smart and skilled game, with a strong physical edge and a nose for the net. Although he might not be as skilled as Pierre-Luc Dubois, they remind me of the same type of player that was just an all-around C capable of playing the game hard, while showcasing exceptional skill and that, at top speed.