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Friday
Oct262012

Tight Pants: Vladimir Tarasenko

This is the second installment of a series in which I tell you who to pay attention to in the KHL that you might otherwise miss because they weren't playing in the NHL last year. Yes, I know, this one barely counts, but barely still counts. 

Let me introduce you to Vladimir Tarasenko. 

There he is. Vladimir Andreyevich Tarasenko. Born December 13th, 1991. Right wing for SKA Saint Petersburg, #91. 

You're lucky you get him at all this season. He was drafted in the first round (16th overall) of the 2010 draft by St. Louis. Having spent most of his career in Russia with Sibir Novosibirsk, he was traded last year to SKA. Tarasenko made clear his intentions to play with the Blues this season, but then that whole lockout thing sort of happened, and instead of spending a winter in Peoria, he stayed in Saint Pete. Can't say I blame him. 20 year old kid coming to America for the first time, and you spend it in the middle of an Illinois winter? Meh. 

Tarasenko is going to be a special kind of talent. Trust me on this. He's on pace to put up over 70 points in the KHL this season, and is still overlooked because he's playing with Ilya Kovalchuk. If you're looking for someone to compare him to, look no further than Pavel Bure. They're both about the same size (Tarasenko is 6'0", 191 pounds), and both rely on pure speed and great stickhandling. He's also got the ability to stop and turn on a dime, and can play physical when he needs to (keep watching that video). He's not just a great goalscorer, he's also racking up tons of assists in the KHL. And though he's only 20, Tarasenko's shown his leadership skills, captaining Russia to gold at the 2011 World Juniors, where he scored the game tying goal in the final, and had an assist on the eventual game-winner. 

As I just alluded to, Tarasenko's made his name at the WJC-18s and the World Juniors in past years. He had 15 points (8+7, second most in the tournament) in his only WJC-18 tournament in 2009, being named to the tournament's all-star team. In the 2010 World Juniors, Tarasenko played in 6 games, scoring four goals and an assist as Russia limped to a 6th place finish. In addition to his goal and assist in the 2011 final, he racked up another 3 goals and six assists in the tournament. His play there led to him being called up to the senior team for the 2011 World Championships. Tarasenko scored a goal in the bronze medal game, a 7-4 loss to the Czech Republic. 

So there you have it. Vladimir Tarasenko, a Pavel Bure for this generation. Watch him play for SKA, and then enjoy him when he comes to St. Louis. He should be in the NHL for years to come.

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