NHL 2010 Top Draft Prospects: Vladimir Tarasenko

When you’re called the Ovechkin of Novosibirsk, you’ve got a lot of expectations to live up to.

Statistically, people may say that they don’t match up. But remember, Ovechkin scored just 69 points in 151 Russian league games (before the KHL existed) on a much better team in Dynamo Moscow.

Vladimir Tarasenko, on the other hand, has scored 34 in 80 games, a very similar points percentage. And Novosibirk Siber is not nearly as talented a team as Dynamo Moscow was at the time.

Nonetheless, people must remember that it matters what the player does without the puck, not just how many points they put up.

“He’s not the flashiest guy on the ice, but he gets it done,” Sports Illustrated says. “He just weasels his way into open ice and takes it from there. He’s strong on the puck and willing to take a hit to get his shot off, but he needs to put on some muscle if he wants to keep playing that way.”

Tarasenko, a 5-foot-11, 202-pound right winter, can score goals with his quick hands and powerful shot. He can also make pretty plays too. He does not have blinding speed, but he is a powerful forward who plays hard every shift and is hard to be knocked off his skates.

“A lot like his fellow countryman Evgeni Kuznetsov, Tarasenko is a player who has really flown under the radar heading into the draft year,” TheScoutingReport.org says. “While he might end up slipping in the first round due to concerns over his desires to come over with no transfer agreement in place with Russia, make no mistake, Tarasenko definitely has high end talent, even in a deep draft like this.”

Tarasenko played well during the World Juniors, raising the eyebrows of some NHL scouts looking to draft the next superstar Russian.

“It was an extremely valuable experience to play against the best in the world,” Tarasenko said. “After I had that experience, I no longer get nervous to play international.”

“He’s a classical Russian winger,” one scout says in an NHL.com interview. “He’s an exceptional talent who will probably be even better than his father was. Vladimir 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.”

Tarasenko has hockey in his blood, as his father was a Russian League star before the KHL was even a thought.

“I learned quite a lot from my father,” Tarasenko said to NHL.com. “My father played at a time when hockey had a different style. He was 19 when he played Russian hockey. When I turn 19, I’ll compare myself to my father.”

Tarasenko also has wanted to answer to those who say he has no desire to come to the NHL.

“Every young player would like to play in the NHL and win the Stanley Cup,” said Tarasenko. “Every young player, I think, has a dream of winning the Stanley Cup, Olympic Games and World Championship.”

However, his father believes that staying close to home is a much better plan for young Vladimir.

“I think it’s important for my son to stay [in Russia] for awhile, gain experience and become a respected hockey player,” Tarasenko’s father said to the NHL. “CHL is a junior league. In Russia he plays against men. I think it’s better even comparing to Canadian juniors. Again it’s very difficult to be abroad without any relatives or close friends. There’s got to be someone to lend a hand or advice when he needs it. Vladimir is a kind of guy that needs somebody to support him.”

He is under contract for one more season with Sibir, but he has not speculated on his future after his contract expires.

“I think I should continue my career with Sibir [for now] also because of the human conditions,” the younger Tarasenko said. “There are a lot of people that really helped me, like my family.

“I have to play my best and show all that I can do,” Tarasenko said. “It’s important to play very well. My game will show everything.”

Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him atBergHockey24@gmail.com.

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