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Draft Profile: Vladimir Tarasenko

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
On each weekday between now and the first round of the NHL Entry Draft on June 25, we'll be profiling one of 10 players who could be chosen with the seventh overall pick by Carolina.  Today's subject is Russian winger Vladimir Tarasenko.  Previously: Alexander Burmistrov | Brett Connolly | Cam Fowler | Brandon Gormley | Mikael Granlund | Erik Gudbranson | Ryan Johansen | Nino Niederreiter | Jeff Skinner Also see: Hurricanes Draft History
Although talented, Vladimir Tarasenko is an example of what’s become known as “the Russian Factor” around the hockey world.

Paul Branecky
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The 5-foot-11, 202 pound wing played for Novosibirsk of the KHL last season, which has become a concern for NHL teams hopeful of bringing their prospects overseas immediately.  Unlike players from North American junior leagues or colleges, Russian prospects in the KHL are already under professional contracts, making it more lucrative to stay at home at least for the short term.

“When someone’s playing in the KHL, it does present some issues in terms of signability and the reliability of a player wanting to be in the NHL,” said Jason Karmanos, the Hurricanes’ vice president and assistant general manger.

Separating Tarasenko from compatriot Alexander Burmistrov is the fact that Burmistrov has already come over to play junior hockey in Canada and has demonstrated a willingness to learn the language and culture.  That has helped ease such fears in his case, at least as far as the Hurricanes are concerned.

While Tarasenko hasn’t yet made that jump, he’s apparently said all the right things when given the opportunity, most recently at the NHL draft combine in May.

“He was an interesting kid to talk to, and he certainly tried to give the impression that he would like to come over,” said Tony MacDonald, director of amateur scouting for the Hurricanes.  “He did indicate that he would be prepared to come over here, even to play junior hockey.”

Scouts would love to see what he could do in that scenario.  His numbers last season were not all that impressive at first glance (13-11-24 in 42 games), but one must consider that he was playing in a men’s league with a relatively small amount of ice time.  While his decision to stay in Russia has made some teams nervous, his experience playing against mature opposition and his stocky, developed frame may actually give him a better chance of making an NHL roster next season than other players in his class.

“He would have a good chance to crack a lot of lineups around the league,” said MacDonald.  “He’s like a tank in that he has a low center of gravity and is a tough guy to separate from the puck.”

Tarasenko is also considered to be a natural goal scorer with an excellent shot, having netted four in six games on an otherwise disappointing Russian effort in the World Junior Championship.  His defense could need some work, which is where adapting to the North American game comes in.

Similar to Brett Connolly, who has injury concerns, Tarasenko’s uncertain future is a player that will in all likelihood be selected later than his talent level would suggest.  Teams may instead opt for safer picks, but a potentially great player will be available to a team brave enough to take him at the top of the first round.

”Based on just rating a player, he’s highly skilled, brings a lot to the table and can score goals,” said Karmanos.  “If a team can get comfortable with the contractual side of things, he’s a kid you could hit a home run with.”

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