Vladimir Tarasenko is an NHL superstar in the making

For the season through Monday’s games, his 14 goals are tied for fourth in the league and his plus-17 is tied for second. He is the only player to be in the top 10 in both categories, writes Rob McKenzie.
Vladimir Tarasenko of the St Louis Blues racked up 10 goals and seven assists during their 15 games in November. Ronald Martinez / Getty Images
Vladimir Tarasenko of the St Louis Blues racked up 10 goals and seven assists during their 15 games in November. Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

There were doubts – going into the 2010 entry draft, the experts ranked Vladimir Tarasenko as the fourth-best player available.

There were concerns about how long he might want to stay in Russia, rather than cross the Pacific to try his luck in the National Hockey League. Once he did cross, there were worries that he, like many other Russians, would have trouble adapting to the new world.

Read more: Canada could finally score an NHL champion but the west is still the best

His father, Andrei, played 21 years in the Russian Superleague. The season before the draft, Vladimir played for Sibir (it is in Siberia) with his dad as his coach.

The father was in no rush to send the son away.

“I think it’s important for my son to stay [in Russia] for a while,” Andrei told the website hockeysfuture.com.

“It’s very difficult to be abroad without any relatives or close friends.

“There’s got to be someone to lend a hand or advice when he needs it. Vladimir is a kind of guy that needs somebody to support him.”

In the end, the younger Tarasenko was chosen 16th by the St Louis Blues.

After staying two-and-a-half years in the motherland to hone his game, he joined the Blues in January 2013 – and scored goals on his first two shots in the NHL.

Tarasenko plays like the coach’s son he is, using strong technique to create the small advantages that sway a game and working hard on the defensive as well as the offensive end.

He has steadily ascended, and last week he might have made the leap from star to superstar.

Saturday night at Minnesota, he scored the game’s first goal this way: jumps over the boards, steals the puck from between two Wild players, follows a diagonal angle towards the net, shifts his body weight so that Minnesota Wild’s Mikko Koivu turns the wrong way, glides left until the last defenceman is wrong-footed and the goalie is down, then banks the puck in off both posts.

Ridiculous.

Then he scores the winner in the shoot-out to seal the game for St Louis.

The night before, against Edmonton Oilers, he set up the first St Louis goal with a no-look, behind-the-back, through-the-skates pass to TJ Oshie, who roofed it home.

Then Tarasenko scored the winner in overtime by stickhandling his way around an Edmonton defender and wristing it past poor Ben Scrivens.

Tarasenko finished November’s 15 games with 10 goals, seven assists and a plus-11 rating.

For the season through Monday’s games, his 14 goals are tied for fourth in the league and his plus-17 is tied for second. He is the only player to be in the top 10 in both categories.

Before he was drafted, there were doubts. Now there is no doubt. Tarasenko turns 23 this month, is a contender in the MVP race and is still improving.

rmckenzie@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 2, 2014 04:00 AM

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