UPDATE: After great headlines on one of the top prospects the St. Louis Blues organization has seen in awhile, confusing news was heard from his home country, Russia. Per the usual hockey beats, Vladimir Tarasenko’s KHL club, SKA St. Petersburg, has retained the rights for the young winger should he ever wish to return to the second best league. This contract in no way affects his deal with the Blues or his intention to join his NHL club. Blues fans can be assured that #91 will be at the ScottTrade Center this fall.
Although it is June, many Blues fans woke up Saturday morning with a gift worthy of Christmas. In the early hours of the day, the best prospect not playing in the NHL declared his intent to join the world’s best hockey league. Vladimir Tarasenko has chosen to play the 2012-2013 season in North America.
The 16th overall pick in the 2010 draft had the skill to be drafted much sooner if he was not Russian. With the ongoing issue of coaxing Russian players away from the big money in the KHL, taking these young players early is a gamble.
The cards fell in favor of the St. Louis Blues as Tarasenko has agreed to cross the sea and sign an entry level contract. A contract that will pay him considerably less than what he was likely offered to stay in Russia. With added bonuses, however, Tarasenko’s paycheck is up to his own performance.
The Blues were not the only team paying attention to Tarasenko’s decision. With more Russians choosing their own league over the best league, one choosing to crossover bodes well for all future draftees. Changing leagues may not change other general managers’ views on Russians. However, had he chosen to stay, it likely would have made front offices in the NHL think twice before drafting their next player from this country.
Highly touted, Tarasenko has progressed every year adding to his point production each season. Between playing with grown men the past four seasons and leading Russia to a gold medal in the World Junior Championships, Tarasenko has proven his worth.
Despite the Russian propaganda and wallet flexing, the Blues top prospect is signing his first NHL contract July 1. Having stated multiple times his dream was to play in the NHL, the decision to come over now displays a serious dedication to challenge himself to be the best. His prolific play and energetic attitude will have an immediate impact on the Blues. Whether or not he is Calder material may depend on if he can beat out potential linemate, Jaden Schwartz who was drafted two places ahead of Tarasenko.
Blues fans can rest easy. The anxiety is gone. Tarasenko has chosen the NHL.