When the St. Louis Blues drafted Russian prospect Vladimir Tarasenko in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft they knew that there would be a risk that he’d stay in Russia a bit longer than even the team might like. Some Russian players enjoy the comfort of playing at home rather than coming to North America to potentially slog away in the AHL.
As it turns out, Tarasenko is going to do the thing that works out easiest for both him and the Blues and he’ll be playing once again next season in the KHL.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong says that he doesn’t have any disagreement with Tarasenko’s decision to stay another year in the Russian professional league.
“At the end of the day, (Tarasenko) feels that it’s best for his development to spend one more season in the KHL, and we certainly support that decision,” Armstrong said. “At that age, 19, I’m sure he had to take a look at all the different options he had. Obviously he felt that playing in the KHL, and staying in an environment he was comfortable with, will increase his development and make him a better player in North America when he gets here.”
Tarasenko plays for Sibir in the KHL and this upcoming season will be his fourth there. Last season he scored nine goals and had ten assists as a 19 year-old. At six feet tall and 192 pounds, the Blues hope that he’ll eventually become a force as a forward for a Blues team that’s getting younger and more talented while building through the draft and via trades.
While the Blues should have some worries that Tarasenko will want to stay in Russia, the lure of playing in the NHL is strong. That said, he could end up staying there until the team is ready to offer him a spot with the big club without the threat of riding a bus in the minor leagues. Other highly drafted Russians haven’t had good fortune when coming over.
Blue Jackets prospect Nikita Filatov, for example, has found life to be rough in the Columbus organization since being the sixth overall pick by the Jackets in 2008. In 44 career NHL games, Filatov has six goals and seven assists. Last season Filatov was allowed to go to the KHL to play full time there, while this year he spent in Springfield of the AHL. That sort of up and down life isn’t appealing to most prospects, but to those from Russia who have the option to stay in the KHL that can be more attractive. We’ll see what ends up happening with Tarasenko in the years to come.