The wait is over.
Vladimir Tarasenko has arrived.
The 20-year-old Russian forward landed at Lambert Airport in St. Louis at approximately 4:30 p.m. last Friday, and his arrival puts an end to more than two years of anticipation.
It was way back in June 2010 when Blues fans first learned his name. Back then, he was an 18-year-old prospect the Blues selected with a first-round pick (16th overall) at the NHL Draft in Los Angeles. According to NHL Central Scouting, Tarasenko was the second-ranked European skater, and some experts predicted he’d be a Top-5 pick. It didn’t end up that way, though. The lure of big-time earning potential in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League has scared many-o'-NHL scouts away drafting Russian prospects as of late.
But the Blues knew of Tarasenko’s great potential. After already selecting Jaden Schwartz with their first-round pick (14th overall) that summer, GM Doug Armstrong made a swift trade, sending defenseman David Rundblad (the Blues' first-round pick a year earlier) to Ottawa for the opportunity to select the talented right-winger.
And now, three months after agreeing to an entry-level deal with the Blues in June, Tarasenko’s wheels have landed on American soil and Armstrong’s gamble is about to pay off.
They say good things are worth the wait. In Tarasenko's case, that's probably especially true. You see, before he agreed to come to St. Louis, the 6-foot, 215-pound forward was playing in Russia’s top professional league. Despite his youth, he posted 52 goals and 48 assists (100 points) in 176 KHL games. He’s big, he’s physical and he’s got quite an offensive touch, meaning the Blues can certainly expect him to be a major player in their offense as soon as this season.
“The type of player that we’re hoping to get, he’s just a very strong, very determined player,” Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently. “He was the captain of (Russia’s 2011 gold medal) world junior championship team, so he’s got character…he’s got a 200-foot game, he can score goals, he’s got a vibrant personality, too.
“So I think our fans are going to see someone that can play the right side, something that we’re going to give a great opportunity to play with on our team. We’re excited to have a player of his caliber come to our team at this age.”
Armstrong did say the club has tempered their expectations.
“It’s a very difficult league, the NHL, and he’ll have to find his way,” Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch. “I don’t want the fan base to put pressure on this player to come in and get 50 goals next year. I think it’s unrealistic, but we truly believe we have an excellent young player that’s going to be dynamic player in our league in the future.”