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Prospect Report: Russian prospects turning in excellent seasons

CBJ GM speaks highly of performances of Marchenko, Voronkov, Tarasov

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

A year ago, going into the trade deadline, three players the Blue Jackets did not want to get rid of were Alexandre Texier, Emil Bemstrom and Liam Foudy. 

A year later, you can see why. Texier immediately jumped into the team's playoff lineup a year ago and flourished, though injury has short-circuited this season for the talented Frenchman; Bemstrom has shown flashes of skill and has goals in three straight games for the Blue Jackets at age 20; and Foudy showed an NHL-ready game when he made two appearances for the team earlier this month. 

This time around, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen talked about the team's relatively quiet trade deadline and pointed out there were three prospects this time around that teams often asked for. 

And again, Kekalainen made it clear Russian prospects Kirill Marchenko, Dmitri Voronkov and Daniil Tarasov were going nowhere. 

"Guys around the league, they scout the prospects just like we do, so everyone is asking about Marchenko and Voronkov and Tarasov," Kekalainen said. "We're not trading those guys. They're going to be a big part of our future." 

It might be a while before Blue Jackets fans see all three, but each has shown this year why they're thought to be among the biggest building blocks of Columbus' future. 

For Marchenko and Voronkov, the KHL is the second-best league in the world -- certainly the best outside of North America -- which is what makes their play all the more impressive this season. 

At age 19, the two CBJ draft picks have become regulars with big franchises, Marchenko with traditional power SKA St. Petersburg and Voronkov with an Ak Bars Kazan team that is running away with its division and is the favorite to win the league's Western Conference.  

The two members of the Russian team that earned silver at this winter's World Junior Championships have returned to their home country since then and turned up the dial on their respective performances.  

Marchenko is coming off a dominant performance Sunday in which he had two goals and two assists in just 11:55 of ice time during a SKA win over Jokerit. That gives him three goals in the last three games, and on the season the 2018 second-round draft pick has seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 31 games.  

Marchenko is signed with SKA through 2022 and has already set franchise scoring records for a player under age 20.  

"I think there's a lot to like about him. He's a big guy, a tall guy. He's skilled and he's a good skater. That's what really pops out," CBJ director of European development Jarkko Ruutu said of Marchenko at the World Juniors. "He can score and is putting up some good numbers and he's been playing with men all year. Doesn't matter if it's KHL or VHL, he's taken a spot in the lineup and there's a lot of upside on him too.  

"He's still physically raw, so that will take some time, but he's a player that can be a difference maker for us down the road." 

Voronkov, meanwhile, has been with Ak Bars for most of the season and was one of the most impressive Russian players at the World Juniors, finishing with three goals and seven points in seven games. He's been on fire of late, posting a 4-4-8 line in his past 10 games with three multipoint games mixed in. On the year, he's up to five goals and 12 points in 33 games in what has been an injury-filled year. 

Tweet from @khl_eng: After #WorldJuniors 19-year-old Dmitry Voronkov's ice-time has increased, and no doubt it boosted his confidence level. pic.twitter.com/JI0apwErmY

Voronkov was taken in the fourth round of this past summer's draft and projects as a big, physical forward at 6-foot-4 with some scoring touch.  

Then there's Tarasov, who was with the Russian World Juniors team last year and has now become a starter with Ässät of Finland's Liiga. The Aces have struggled this year but Tarasov has been impressive at 20 years old, posting a goals-against average of 2.61 and a save percentage of .903.  

Gifted with great size at 6-foot-4 as well as impressive athleticism, Tarasov is thought of by many as the goaltender of the future in Columbus because of his high ceiling, though that future is likely a few years down the road given his age and need to keep gathering experience.

Monsters update: Ravaged by injuries and callups, Cleveland continues to take one step forward and one step back, as the Monsters split a pair of games on a trip to upstate New York over the weekend. 

The top farm team of the Blue Jackets ended up on the wrong end of things on Friday night, falling by a 6-3 score in Syracuse. The good news was a big night for Markus Hannikainen, who posted two goals and assisted on the third before being traded Monday, while newly signed Brendan Troock scored the other goal and Ryan MacInnis had a pair of assists. Veini Vehvilainen finished with 14 saves on 19 shots against.  

Cleveland battled back for a 3-2 win in overtime on Saturday in Rochester, with Joonas Korpisalo making the start while on a conditioning assignment. The CBJ goalie was the difference, as Cleveland was outshot 34-13 but Korpisalo made 32 saves. The Monsters got goals from Trey Fix-Wolansky -- who had three points -- and Hannikainen before Sam Vigneault's overtime winner 1:35 into extra time.  

Cleveland remains in last place in the AHL's North Division at 24-26-3-2 but are eight points behind fourth-place Syracuse -- which owns the final playoff spot -- with two games in hand. The Monsters played Wednesday morning in Toronto before returning home for games Friday night and Saturday afternoon vs. Belleville.  

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