Vladimir Andrevevich Tarasenko, was drafted 16th overall by the St. Louis Blues in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the same year as fellow prospect Jaden Schwartz (14th Overall). Tarasenko was born on December 13, 1991, so he is just about to turn 21 years-old, and has yet to play a single game in the NHL.
Tarasenko grew up learning the game from his former coach and father Andrei Tarasenko. Andrei, a former player himself, is known mostly in North America from his time as an Olympian, but is well known throughout Russia as a scoring champion.
Tarasenko’s professional career began back in the 2008-2009 season while playing for HC Sibir. That season he appeared in only 38 games and managed to put up seven goals and three assists as the modest beginnings to what looks to be an all-star career. That season Tarasenko was the runner up for the KHL Rookie of the Year, an honor that he also has the potential to win in the NHL whenever they get back to the ice.
Tarasenko’s time in the KHL has been one of success. His sophomore year he returned to play in Sibir as the 7th youngest player in the entire league. Playing as a boy among men, Tarasenko took the KHL by storm that season managing 13 goals and 11 assists in 42 games. The next season Tarasenko would again appear in some 42 games but scored only 9 goals and 10 assists. While his point totals throughout his first three seasons in the KHL failed to surpass 24 points, it is important to remember that he was playing in a league with full grown men, who had already proven themselves worthy of being in perhaps the second most competitive league. During this time, Tarasenko was also not receiving much time of the ice, playing in the bottom six most of his time on the ice.
In International play, Tarasenko made his premier in the 2009 IIHF World U18 Champtionships. In only 7 games Tarasenko managed to score some 8 goals and 7 assists all while winning a Silver Medal. In 2010, Tarasenko returned to the international spotlight in the 2010 World Junior Championships scoring 4 goals and 1 assist in only 6 games. Unfortunately, the Russian team that year suffered quite a bit an did not place, but rather finished 6th overall. After the disappointing finish the year before, Tarasenko was named team captain in 2011. This time, he managed 4 goals and 7 assists for 11 points in just seven games, again reaching the championship game. This time, the Russians would come out on top giving Tarasenko his first major award, a Gold Medal.
It would make sense then too, that Tarasenko’s breakout year would come in 2011-2012. This season Tarasenko would be traded by his hometown team to SKA St. Petersburg. For most of the season, Tarasenko played quality ice time for HC Sibir and put up an impressive 18 goals and 20 assists through 39 games. If you aren’t great with math, that is almost a point-per-game at 38 points in 39 games. This is when Blues fans could finally see that the young Russian was well worth the wait to watch. After the trade to SKA, Tarasenko would see his ice time reduced, but in the 15 games he did play for them in the regular season, he put up 5 goals and 4 assists good for 9 points. At the end of the regular season Tarasenko had a total of 23 goals and 24 assists for 47 points. Keep in mind again, this is a pro league with a 19/20 year-old playing against men in their primes and he still scored 47 points in just 54 games. In the playoffs that season, Tarasenko appeared in another 15 games for SKA and got an incredible 10 goals and 6 assists. That is more than a point-per-game!
Following the 2011-2012 KHL season, Tarasenko agreed to a 3 year deal with the Blues that would have seen him play his rookie season this year, just after having a breakout season in Russia. Once the lockout was imminent there was talk that the young Russian would stay in the United States and play top line minutes for the Peoria Rivermen, a move that many would have preferred and would have allowed him to adjust to the size of the North American Rink. Instead, Tarasenko decided not to pass up perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play on the same line as Ilya Kovalchuk.
Once Tarasenko made the jump, many Blues fans, including myself, were quite happy about the move. So far Tarasenko has managed to play in 19 games recording 11 goals and 13 assists for a total of 24 points. For those of you following this story, that means that his near point-per-game production has now exceeded that mark.
For Blues fans the end of the lockout will mean the debut of Vladimir Tarasenko. I have not been this excited to watch a player play since MacInnis hung up his skates. Perhaps the best part of the story for St. Louis fans is that we can watch this young player grow into a possible league superstar. The Blues organization has been quite not to say just that, and hopes to keep the hype on Tarasenko down with the mindset that it will take him time to develop.
For now, all we can do is hope that Tarasenko continues to develop his skills in Russia and will come to the NHL as the player we all hope he can be. As always, LET’S GO BLUES!