If you took a poll of the most exciting players to watch in the NHL today, chances are Vladimir Tarasenko isn’t on that list. However, that’s all about to change.
This is the year that he shows the world what he can do. Tarasenko’s hockey career is rich with history, yet he is only 22 years old. While he is just now finding his groove in America, Tarasenko already has quite the legacy in his home nation of Russia.
He led the Russians to a gold medal at the 2011 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships and has six seasons of KHL (Russia’s premiere hockey league) experience under his belt. In his first professional season with his KHL team Sibir Novosibirsk, Tarasenko accumulated seven goals and 10 points overall.
The season was good enough to garner him runner-up in rookie of the year voting.
Going into the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Tarasenko was named the top-ranked European skating prospect. Despite the wishes of his father, who was a former Russian league scoring champion, Tarasenko sought to play in America, and was drafted by the St. Louis Blues with the 16th overall pick.
Tarasenko made his NHL debut during the 2012-13 season. While only putting up 19 points, he did so in 38 games. He was also named the NHL Rookie of the Month for February.
The potential was there, and all he needed to do was reach it. His second NHL season was more successful as he put up 43 points in 64 games. He saved the best performance of his young career for when it mattered most, the playoffs.
Tarasenko underwent hand surgery in mid-March, and was expected to miss the rest of the regular season. However, upon his return for the playoffs, Tarasenko was able to score four goals for the Blues in their series with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blues would end up losing the series, but they might have gained a star in the process. This season, Tarasenko has taken the next step in his NHL career. Only 16 games into the Blues season, Tarasenko has already amassed 21 points, including 10 goals to his credit.
Vladimir has great chemistry with former KHL teammate Jori Lehtera (and opposite left winger Jaden Schwartz) as the combo has been on a roll as of late. The most impressive thing about his play has been his poise on the ice. It’s become the norm for Tarasenko to split between defenders and shoot a puck right past a defending goalie.
He has become a nightly SportsCenter celebrity and was praised by ESPN personality Barry Melrose as “his new favorite player.” Everything seems to be clicking for the young Russian winger. If he continues to improve, there is no limit to what he can achieve.
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