With a new season just days away now, at least before training camps open, I thought I would take a second to give a little more praise to a player coming to the Blues roster. Vladimir Tarasenko has the ability to change the Blues scoring woes and his added abilities should be enough to help the Blues get past tricky teams in the playoffs like last years Kings.
As of December 14, 2012, TSN rated the top 30 affiliated NHL prospects in the world. The list contained the usual suspects such as Nail Yakupov, Mikael Granlund, Jonathon Huberdeau, Mika Zibanejad, and other household name prospects, but ahead of all of them on the list was Vladimir Tarasenko.
It is no secret that I am one of Vladi’s biggest fans, I have a jersey waiting for his name and number once the season opens and I get to the home opener, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has the potential to be one of the best players in the NHL once he makes the jump.
Number 1 on TSN’s list is Justin Schultz followed by Evgeny Kuznetsov. There is no denying the level of play that Schultz has shown both before becoming part of the Oilers organization and after, but he has yet to play against grown men in a top-tier league. Many argue that the level of the AHL is similar if not better than that of the KHL, but I have a real issue with this assumption. While there are certainly very skilled players in the AHL, they lack the age, size, and intensity of the players in the KHL. Grown men throw harder checks and in the KHL stars are well known and targeted. Kuznetsov has earned the right to be number 2 on TSN’s list as his play has always been superior and he will certainly give the Capitals another Russian they will love for a long time.
With Tarasenko I think that the story is a bit different though. As of yet, Vladi has never gotten first line ice time. He saw a glimpse of it earlier this season, but once again SKA St. Petersburg has pushed him to the side despite his level of play. The feeling is almost as if they feel he is a rental player. The difference now is that all changes once the season opens. Tarasenko was all but promised a spot in the top two lines and Hitchcock hinted soon after the lockout began that he had planned on pairing Tarasenko with McDonald and Steen. Think about the possibilities of such a line. This would almost certainly be the blues second line after the Perron, Backes, Oshie line, but should see about equal playing time.
So long as the transition to the smaller rink size is not an issue, Tarasenko has the possibility of being a point-per-game player, which he has been this season in the KHL. Through the 31 games he has player, he has 31 points. Not bad for such a young player who seems to only get better with more of a spotlight. Once he hits St. Louis, fans are sure to be pushing him to be an instant superstar, but the organization is doing their best to let us all know he may need more time to develop to be a superstar in the NHL. Either way, Tarasenko could be the player to eclipse Hull in St. Louis if he manages to be all that he is cracked up to be. The Blues are chalked full of great set up players, but do not have the one true sniper on the lineup. Tarasenko is that sniper. So with the 3rd best prospect in the world coming to the Blues starting lineup for the 2013 season, I ask you, can the Blues win the cup this year. I think all signs point to a big maybe that leans toward a yes.
In the coming days, we are going to highlight the offense, defense, goaltending, and coaching of the St. Louis Blues for the upcoming season. Check back for more information and insights on how this team can perform and what chances we think that they have, and, as always, LET’S GO BLUES!