The 2015-2016 regular season is set to start in a few short weeks and the Blues have a lot to be excited about when it comes to talent. Whether or not they’ll find regular season success similar to year’s past and if St. Louis will aim to clinch their first Stanley Cup in franchise history are both uncertain. What is certain, however, is they’ll be an entertaining group to watch notably because of their young core.
At the forefront of that group is now 23-year-old Vladimir Tarasenko. The Russia native is heading into his fourth season as an NHL regular and looks to have just scraped the surface of his potential. The Blues have high hopes for number 91 seeing that they signed him to an 8 year, $7.5 million contract last summer, the longest deal the new collective bargaining agreement allows.
He wasn’t always the player he is today, though. Despite being a rather impressive player throughout his career, Tarasenko had some hardships to overcome to get to this point.
Draft and NHL Beginnings
Tarasenko sat among the other NHL hopefuls at the 2010 entry draft just waiting to hear his name called. Luckily for him the wait wasn’t very long as the Blues drafted him 16th overall. In a draft that brought players to the likes of Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, and Cam Fowler to the NHL being chosen that high was and is a testament to the belief in the future note.
In the lockout shortened season of 2013 Tarasenko played a total of 38 games for the Blues scoring 19 points (8G, 11A). His performance was solid enough to earn him Rookie of the Month for January following his scoring of 9 points (5G, 4A). Although his offensive production slowed as the season completed, it was impressive for a rookie nonetheless.
First Regular Season
The following year Tarasenko played nearly twice as many games for the Blues as a regular on the roster. He ended the 2013-2014 season with a career-high 43 points (21G, 22A) in 64 games.
After successfully playing for the bulk of the season Tarasenko required surgery on his hand after sustaining the injury in a 4-1 victory against the Nashville Predators. On March 19th, four days after the game, number 91 underwent a successful procedure that was expected to sideline him for the remainder of the season.
Tarasenko, however, was resilient returning just in time for the 2014 playoffs. During the series against the Chicago Blackhawks he scored an impressive four goals, but despite his best effort St. Louis was eliminated in six games.
Last year Tarasenko became a more widely known forward in the NHL and one that teams had to look out for. In 77 games he scored 73 points (37G, 36A) to lead the team in that regard. A few weeks into the season Tarasenko scored his first hat trick in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Dallas Stars. He was later named the NHL First Star of the Week for his impressive 6 points (5G, 1A) during those seven days.
For only his third season in the NHL, and second in which he played more than half of the season, Tarasenko more than proved his worth. He showed not only the Blues, but the entire league that he’s a force to be reckoned with and that opposing teams should design their game plan around him.
Any player in the NHL that is producing close to a point-per-game is one to watch, especially when they’re as young as Tarasenko is. While last year he had his best performance to date, it wouldn’t be a stretch to expect him to be even better during 2015-2016.
He’ll be better not only because the new contract comes with expectations, but because he is now confident as to what his place on the Blues is. He knows for certain that they’re committed to him and that level of comfort will translate to his play on the ice. Organizations don’t sign just anyone to that kind of a deal and it means a lot that the Blues did.
Tarasenko should be playing in more games and having a greater impact on the score sheet this season, hopefully continuing his point-a-game average again this season if not surpassing it. When he finds the right line mates number 91 is going to take the league by storm, which should be just around the corner.
How do you think Tarasenko will do this season? Leave your thoughts in the comments.