Tarasenko Contract Makes Him “The Guy” For Blues

Budding superstar Vladimir Tarasenko took a big step forward as being known as the face of the St. Louis Blues today to say the least.

That investment says a lot especially after General Manager Doug Armstrong traded away a core piece for seven seasons in the form of T.J. Oshie.

Just three seasons ago, the gifted Russian was playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in the middle of his sixth season. It was a league he had been playing in since scoring seven goals and ten points in 38 games as a 17-year old rookie in 2008-09. He would follow that season up with a 13-goal, 24-point campaign in what would be his draft year, getting recognized around the hockey world for his smooth skating stride, wicked shot, playmaking ability and incredible vision.

‚ÄúVladimir is very effective around the net with his excellent overall skill level and vision. He is a strong, mobile skater with a quick shot. He is not only a sniper, but also a good passer and playmaker. There are no real weaknesses in his overall game and he will be one of the most interesting prospects at the draft.”
-NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb

At 21, Tarasenko made the jump from the KHL that sixth season after the NHL lockout met its end. That year he posted eight goals and 19 points in 38 games for the St. Louis Blues. In 64 games the next season, Tarasenko showed what he could do at the NHL level in 26 more games played, scoring 21 goals and 43 points. It took him a couple of years to adjust, but in 2014-15 he showed why he was the 2nd ranked European Prospect in his class.

In a down year for scoring, the Yaroslavl native posted 37 goals and 73 points, putting his whole game together. His 37 markers placed him in the top five in that category tied with names like Tyler Seguin, Joe Pavelski, and Max Pacioretty. They need no introduction.

Going beyond this season, Tarasenko’s 66 goals and 135 career points in just 179 games already places him in the top five scorers among forwards from the 2010 Draft Class behind Seguin(282), Taylor Hall(263), Jeff Skinner(216), and Ryan Johansen(167) in fewer games. Three of the four were drafted in the top four with Skinner coming at 7th, while Tarasenko was stolen at 16th overall. Through their first three seasons, Tarasenko matches up to pace and in some cases is better in terms of scoring. Hall through 171 games had 65 goals and 145 points, Seguin had 56 markers and 121 points through 209 contests before he caught fire in Dallas, Skinner potted 64 goals and 131 points in his first 188, and Johansen in 189 had 47 goals and 96 points.

Some could argue that Tarasenko has had a great team around him in his first few seasons and that is a key part of his success. It’s quite a luxury to jump into the National Hockey League and not have to be “the guy” right from the get-go like Hall was in Edmonton. When your team is winning Presidents’ Trophies and has the likes of Oshie, David Backes, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Alex Pietrangelo, it’s obviously easier to concentrate on your game among the stars of the team.

But with Oshie being traded and how the 23-year old performed last season, especially in the playoffs(six goals in six games, rest of team had eight, Oshie has five in career), Tarasenko is now among those stars and arguably is St. Louis’s brightest for his age on a team that is well-known for its playoff shortcomings. It helps the cause mightily to have immense chemistry with one of the best lines in hockey at one point with 23-year old Jaden Schwartz and 27-year old Jori Lehtera(79 goals 180 points combined) as well. The trio combined for more than a quarter of the Blues scoring this season and looks to be the future core after Oshie, Backes and Alex Steen up front.

The key ingredient through it all, however, is #91.

Advanced statistcs do not tell the whole story, but for Tarasenko it illustrates his dominance and impact in what looks to be a very promising career with St. Louis. What’s scary for the other 29 teams is that when his eight-year contract expires, he’ll be in his prime just hitting his thirties. With numbers like these, it’s crazy to think about how much better Tarasenko can be.

We do know one thing about his future with a team starving for a Stanley Cup.

He is officially “The Guy.”

Stats courtesy of hockeyDB and StLouisBlues.com
Possession chart courtesy of Puckalytics
Tweets courtesy of @MimicoHero and @andystrickland
Scouting quote courtesy of NHL.com

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