What If New Jersey Devils Drafted Yaroslav Askarov Instead of Alexander Holtz?

The New Jersey Devils have been on a decade-long odyssey to find their next franchise goalie, but what would have happened if they had not passed up their best chance to find one in 2020?
2020 NHL Draft - Round One
2020 NHL Draft - Round One / Mike Stobe/GettyImages
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The New Jersey Devils have been on an odyssey to find the heir apparent to Martin Brodeur as their franchise goaltender. They tried in the 2013 NHL Draft when they traded the ninth-overall section to the Vancouver Canucks for Cory Schneider. Schneider was brought in to eventually replace Brodeur, who would depart after one season playing alongside Schneider. 

Since Brodeur’s departure, nineteen goaltenders, including Schneider, have made at least one start for the New Jersey Devils. Their names ranged from the obscure (Scott Clemensen returned to make one start in 2014-15; Aaron Dell, Eric Comrie, Andrew Hammond, and Gilles Senn each made starts between 2020 and 2022) to the stalwart (Mackenzie Blackwood’s 143 starts). The Devils even signed a goalie, Corey Crawford, who would retire before ever playing a game in a Devils' uniform.

However, the most interesting inflection point in this decade-plus-long saga was the 2020 NHL Draft. After another disappointing follow-up to the team’s miracle 2017-18 playoff run, the Devils held the seventh overall pick. At the time, there was speculation, on this site and elsewhere, that the Devils could take KHL netminder Yaroslav Askarov with that pick. Askarov was eventually drafted 11th overall by the Nashville Predators and has since gone on to become the best goalie prospect in the world, leading the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals to 18 straight wins this season.

Instead of taking Askarov, with the seventh selection, the Devils chose winger Alexander Holtz. Holtz is a frustrating player who has been unable to stay in the coaching staff’s good graces long enough to be given a top-six role. He has also been the target of trade speculation as the piece the Devils could dangle to get the 1A goalie they passed up in Askarov—a 1A that will surely be much older and more expensive than Askarov, who is on an entry-level contract right now.

So, what if the Devils had taken Askarov instead with the 7th pick in 2020? Let’s take look at the seismic ripple effect this one decision had on the last few years of NHL history, starting with the 2020 Draft and cascading into the present day.